Understanding the New NFHS DH Rule

For several years, High School Baseball Head Coaches have had two options regarding the Designated Hitter (DH) – use one (a 10-player lineup) or don’t use one (a 9-player lineup).  Beginning with the 2020 season, however, they are given a third choice – a 9-player lineup that includes a DH.  Let’s examine this new option, and some of the confusion and “headaches” it has the potential to cause for those involved in the game (e.g. Head Coaches, Umpires, Scorers, Announcers).

            The new Rule (NFHS 3-1-4b) introduces a concept that college baseball has used for several years – the Player/DH (P/DH).  However, unlike the college rule, the new NFHS Rule specifies that ANY DEFENSIVE PLAYER (not just the pitcher), can be assigned this dual role. 

At the start of the game, when the Head Coach presents his team’s lineup card to the Plate Umpire, the P/DH must be clearly listed as such in one of the nine batting order positions.  Failure to list a P/DH precludes that team from taking advantage of the new P/DH Rule for that game.  As a preventative measure – before the lineup card is “accepted” – if the Plate Umpire sees a 9-player lineup listed, he should confirm with that Head Coach that “No DH will be used for this game, right?”.  This should forestall a misunderstanding (and a potential problem later in the game) that one of the nine players listed “should have been listed as the P/DH”.  On a side note, the re-entry rule has not changed – any of the players listed on the lineup card presented to the umpires at the start of the game may be withdrawn and re-enter once (NFHS Rule 3-1-3).

As mentioned before, the player listed as P/DH is assigned TWO DISTINCT ROLES – a defensive player role (playing any of the nine defensive positions) and an offensive player role (batting as the DH).  It is very important to keep these two roles separate since each has its own specific rule requirements.  Substitutions can be made for the defensive role at any time (3-1-4b).  However, no substitutions can be made for the offensive role at any time during the game (i.e. the player originally listed as P/DH is the ONLY player that can be the DH in that game).  If any player other than the originally-assigned DH (offensive role) hits or runs in that batting order position, the role of the DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (3-1-4b(2)).  To clarify, a Head Coach may NOT substitute another player for the original P/DH and have that substitute be a P/DH.  In this case, the lineup reverts to a 9-player lineup (the DH is terminated for the remainder of the game).

Let’s look at some Case Plays that demonstrate the use of this new rule option.

Play #1Jones is listed in the 4th spot in the batting order as 1/DH (pitcher)

In the 2nd inning, Jones reaches base and the Head Coach wants to use a courtesy runner for Jones.  This is not legal, since Jones is currently playing offense as the Designated Hitter, not pitcher (which is solely a defensive position).

            In the 4th inning Jones is replaced on the mound by Smith (as pitcher – a defensive role).  The Umpire should ask the Head Coach if: 

(1) Jones will remain as the DH (offensive role in the 4th batting order spot) with Smith fulfilling

the pitcher’s spot (defensive role);  OR

(2) the role of the DH being terminated for the remainder of the game (Smith would pitch AND bat

for himself – a “traditional” 9-player lineup). 

For this play case, option (1) is chosen by the Head Coach, so Jones would continue to bat as the DH (Smith would pitch but not bat).  In the 5th inning Jones again reaches base and the Head Coach wants to use a courtesy runner for Jones.  This is still NOT legal, since Jones is still playing offense as a DH.

RE-ENTRY CONSIDERATIONS:  If (1) above applies, Jones is not considered to have left the game – he stays in the game as DH in a “traditional” 10-player lineup (new NFHS Rule 3-1-4a).  If (2) above applies, Jones has left the game and may re-enter once.  If he re-enters it must be in the same spot in the batting order – the 4th spot (Jones may play any of the nine defensive positions).  In this case, Smith must leave the game and may not further participate in any playing role for that game (e.g. may not be a courtesy runner), although he could serve as base coach.

Play #2Russell is listed in the 3rd spot in the batting order as 2/DH (catcher).

In the 2nd inning, Russell reaches base and the Head Coach wants to use a courtesy runner for Russell.  This is not legal, since Russell is currently playing offense as the Designated Hitter, not catcher (which is solely a defensive position).

In the 4th inning, Russell again reaches base.  The Head Coach substitutes Correa as a pinch runner for Russell.  At this point, the Umpire should clarify that Correa is a PINCH RUNNER (a substitute – legal) rather than a COURTESY RUNNER (not legal, as stated above).  If the Head Coach indicates that Correa is a pinch runner (a substitute, NOT a courtesy runner), then the role of DH is terminated for the game (NFHS Rule 3-1-4b(2)) and the lineup reverts to nine players.  Correa (and/or any substitute for Correa) will be required to play both offense and defense.

RE-ENTRY CONSIDERATIONS:  Since he was a starter, Russell may re-enter the game once.  If he re-enters, it must be into the 3rd spot in the batting order (his original spot) and he would play both offense and defense (any defensive position), which is consistent with 9-player lineup rules.  Correa would not be allowed to participate further in that game in any playing role.

Play #3Schweitzer is listed in the 8th spot in the batting order as 8/DH (center fielder).

            In the 3rd inning, Kim pinch hits for Schweitzer (Schweitzer has not yet batted).  This is legal, but the role of DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (NFHS Rule 3-1-4b(2)), resulting in a 9-player lineup.  Kim may play any of the nine defensive positions in addition to batting in the 8th spot.  Schweitzer may re-enter the game once, but only in the 8th spot in the batting order.

Play #4Kuzillo is listed in the 1st spot in the batting order as 3/DH (first baseman).

            In the 3rd inning, Kuzillo is replaced defensively at first base by Ahmad.  The Head Coach notifies the Umpire that Kuzillo will remain in the game as the DH.  The lineup now reflects a “traditional” 10-player lineup; the new NFHS Rule 3-1-4a (2019’s Rule 3-1-4) would apply for the remainder of the game, except that Kuzillo is the only player that can bat as DH.  Kuzillo is NOT considered to have left the game for re-entry rule purposes.  If any player is substituted for Kuzillo offensively, the role of DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (3-1-4b(2)).

            In the 6th inning, Kuzillo returns to play first base (defensive role).  This is legal, and the 9-player lineup is re-instituted.  However, the DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (3-1-4b(1)).  This “defensive re-entry” provision only applies to an originally-assigned P/DH, and may only be applied once (3-1-4b).

            In summary, a High School team can now manage its lineup during the game in three distinct ways.  Umpires and Head Coaches should be fully aware of which option is being used at all times during the game to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.  The three options are:

            1.  Start with a 9-player lineup (no DH), must remain a 9-player lineup (no DH) for the entire game;

            2.  Start with a 10-player lineup (“old style” DH), remain a 10-player lineup for the entire game OR revert to 9-player lineup (terminate the DH);

            3.  Start with a 9-player lineup with P/DH, change to a 10-player lineup (separate DH and defensive player) for the remainder of the game, OR change to 9-player lineup (terminate DH).

            Strict attention to detail will be the key for Umpires, Head Coaches and scorekeepers to implement this Rules change smoothly and keep the game from being delayed needlessly.

Constitutional Changes for GHSA Baseball

On October 16th, the GHSA Board of Trustees met and several items relating to baseball were voted on. Listed below are the items and the results of the votes. A link to the minutes for the entire meeting is included at the end.

  1. Proposal to add an item “g” to by-law 2.92 on Page 44 as follows: “Judgement calls by contest officials are not reviewable or reversible.” (GHSA office) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Stringer, second by Masters, to Approve the proposal
    MOTION PASSED (unanimously) Proposal Approved
  2. Proposal to reword by-law 2.62-e-7 on page 36 as follows (new wording in italic): “Drones shall not be permitted to fly during any GHSA sanctioned event (Note: This prohibition begins when the gates or doors open and extends until the last spectator has left the field or arena.)” (GHSA office) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Finch, second by Jewell, to Approve the proposal
    MOTION PASSED (unanimously) Proposal Approved
  3. Proposal to reword item 2. (e) on page 58 under the Baseball Pitching Restrictions to eliminate the requirement for a registered umpire to be paid to monitor the pitch counts. Instead, the home team will be responsible for providing an adult (21 or over) Pitch Count Monitor who will monitor the pitch counts for both teams, notify the umpire when a pitcher is nearing a threshold and later record the pitch counts on the GHSA MIS web site. (Baseball ad-hoc committee) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Crews, second by Jewell, to Deny the proposal
    MOTION PASSED 8-2 (Craft and Stringer voting “no”) Proposal Denied
  4. Proposal to add wording to item 2. (e) on page 58 under the Baseball Pitching Restrictions to the effect that once a coach is warned that the pitcher is approaching a pitch count threshold, that pitcher shall be allowed to finish the batter. But, upon completion of that batter, the Days of Rest restrictions will only be based on the number of pitches that were thrown PRIOR to reaching the threshold. (Baseball ad-hoc committee) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Craft, second by Stringer, to Deny the proposal
    MOTION PASSED (unanimously) Proposal Denied
  5. Proposal to add wording to item 2. (e) on page 58 under the Baseball Pitching Restrictions to the effect that any pitches that were thrown during a game that was suspended or rained out shall be counted for that pitcher towards any pitching restriction thresholds. (Baseball ad-hoc committee) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Stringer, second by Craft, to Approve the proposal
    MOTION PASSED (unanimously) Proposal Approved
  6. Proposal to reword item 2. (h) on page 58 under the Baseball Pitching Restrictions to add the following under penalties for violating the pitch count restrictions (new wording in italic): “… the offending school shall be fined $250, the head coach at that level assessed a two-game suspension, and the game forfeited.” (Baseball ad-hoc committee) Effective Immediately
    Motion by Craft, second by Stringer, to Approve the proposal
    MOTION PASSED (unanimously) Proposal Approved

Board of Trustees October Meeting Minutes

Updated GHSA Constitution & By-Laws

Proper Techniques of Game Management

By Lawrence Tomei

As an official, you have three important responsibilities: officiate a safe game, officiate an impartial game and officiate in a professional manner. To manage a game effectively, you need to consider all aspects of the game simultaneously. Fortunately, we are equipped with a number of tools — the most obvious being whistles, flags and
cards. Less obvious — but much more important — are your game management skills. The better officials associations teach their members to apply proper techniques of game management so they are more likely to bring the contest to a successful conclusion.

Effective game management begins with a clear understanding of what is expected from both teams and officials.
Coaches and athletic directors expect that officials will arrive well before the scheduled game time. Different sports
have different expectations. Varsity is usually 45-60 minutes prior; football, 90 minutes. Confirm where your crew
is meeting and the best routes to the game site. Make sure your officials agree on dress — both to the game and on the field or court. Business casual means different things to different people. Are you wearing long-sleeve or
short for the game?

Officials, too, have expectations for the on-site game manager. We expect someone will greet us and accompany us to the locker room. We expect that the venue is in playable condition and properly marked and equipment (e.g., scoreboards, down markers, game clocks, etc.) is in working order. Security should be visible and stay close. Medical personnel should be on site before the game begins and protocols for concussions should be discussed. Ground rules should be covered (e.g., procedures for weather-related issues). Background clearances should not be assumed.

The final expectation is sportsmanship. Sportsmanship remains a point of emphasis from the pregame locker room visit to meetings with captains, to post-game celebrations and handshakes.

Communicate. Effective game management begins with an email or phone call to the home team coach five to seven days before the scheduled contest. Confirm game site and time; special events (e.g., homecoming, senior night, etc.); media exposure (e.g., television, radio); and crew member names/positions. Communicate more. How you say
something is often more important than what you say. A simple explanation might turn cutting because your tone
gives an opposite impression. When reporting penalties, remain calm and controlled. Avoid confrontations and sarcasm and never demean coaches or players. Be loud enough to communicate but low-key enough to prevent confrontation. Do not expect coaches to agree with every call. Explain your ruling and perhaps let the coach vent a little. Be calm, be brief. Saying too much can get you into more trouble than saying too little. Remember, your goal is not to win arguments. The best way to get coaches and players to stop complaining is to restart the play quickly.

Communicate even more. Address a coach’s challenge but do not allow it to interrupt the flow of the game. Do not refuse to discuss a call. Suggest a charged timeout to expanded explanations. If a coach, even an assistant coach, has a question and asks in a respectful manner, it is in your best interest to keep the lines of communication open. Some coaches try to gain advantage and influence. Others will not talk to the officials regardless of the call. They let their
assistant coaches throw themselves into the fray thinking they will be held blameless for disrespectful actions. Not so. Head coaches are ultimately responsible for their players and staff. Make sure they understand that.

Effective game management begins well before game time. Inspect the field — don’t just walk it. Introduce yourself to the coaches and get their confirmation that their players are properly equipped. Read the sportsmanship pledge to the captains and make sure they understand that you will be looking to them to control their teammates. Look for safety hazards and communicate those immediately to the game site manager so they do not delay the start of the game. Ensure that special events and team introductions are started early. Finally, confirm that the rest of the team is ready: certify the table personnel; talk with the chain crew; and check that your sideline judges are ready.

Sometimes behavior requires more serious action. To establish good game management, your responses should be progressive in their consequences. For example, if a coach is out of control in football, a quick flag limits other options; a second violation results in ejection. Instead, talk it through with the coach. If he disagrees with your brief explanation, so be it. Restart play quickly and get the game moving. If he continues his tirade, your next option is a verbal warning: “Coach, that’s enough.” Do not threaten a coach or player. A first unsportsmanlike conduct call usually ends the encounter.

Again, different sports have different progressive responses. Be sure you know the full range of options to keep the game under control. Unacceptable behavior, such as profanity and racist comments, questioning your integrity or
impartiality, or threats demand immediate escalation of penalties and possible ejection.

Remember, your goal is to keep the game safe, fair and professional. Effective game management expects you to look the part and do your job. If you deviate even slightly from the expectations, you have opened yourself up to criticism. And if the key to effective game management eluded you in this article, it’s communicate … communicate … communicate!

Lawrence Tomei is the vice provost for academic affairs at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. He has been a
member of the West Penn Football Officials Association since 1994 and its president since 2013.

Turning Out Better Umpires

All of us know umpires, referees and sports officials who despite many years of experience still employ game knowledge, comprehension and application at a “rookie” level.  We regularly work with officials, who despite only one or two years experience, demonstrate abilities to analyze and abstract the rules into the situations which confront them. Finally, we respect those whose wisdom and judgment characterize their every movement on the field, their positioning and their calls.

What defines a rookie, a journeyman, a veteran, is not so much a number of hours in the classroom, a number of games on the field, or a percentage on a test, but is, in fact, observable points in the learning process.

A rookie approaches a problem searching for elements with which they are immediately familiar.  They restructure the problem into a friendly context.  The rookie official then selects and applies the rules to the situation in front of them giving a faithful and accurate judgment.  Many good officials rarely leave this level – know the rules, be in position, make the call, be consistent.  This principal of right and wrong is ingrained in the literal developing of an official.  By knowing the context and appropriate meanings of the game and rules this official applies what they know to the situation at hand.

The transition to journeyman occurs when an official begins to break down a problem into its essential parts and analyze the links between these parts.  Extraneous elements are quickly discarded and relevant information is identified.  A journeyman takes a position on the field in response to the form, pattern and “intent” of what is developing.  Unfamiliar situations are accessed “on the right track” or “the wrong track” instead of the “must be black or white” of junior officials.  The journeyman is also prepared to take the risk of making an error although experience will work to limit the extent of that error.  This official will attempt to clarify why a decision was made and understand the effects of each call, each position and each response.

So what defines a veteran official?  Certainly this official has knowledge, both from instruction and application.  This official understands the game, the rules and their intentions, and brings unique analysis to the play.  A veteran official is “characterized” by the tasks he or she performs.  They have attained the final two stages of growth: the ability to handle unique situations based on the often abstract information presented to them and the ability to accurately and effectively appraise a situation consistently.  By pulling it all together a veteran official brings a set of consistent standards to each game.  A veteran official carries a set of mental tools which can dissect the internal workings of every play and apply external criteria, unique and remembered “standards of excellence” that each veteran official brings to that play.  It is taking officiating and learning to the ultimate levels.

Years spent in classroom and on-field “behavior modification” is not wasted time but attempting to classify the ability of an official based on “so many hours and so many games” sets a dangerous precedent for the promotion of quality officiating.  There has always been and will always be so much to learn, to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.  If officiating is to move to the highest level we must also be prepared to recognize, to foster and to develop training systems which also take learning to the highest level.

GHSA Development Staff

Six Common Report Errors

By Brent Killackey

When events of the day’s game require additional paperwork as part of officiating duties — whether there is an issue with game management, an ejection or a serious player injury — it’s wise to give the task the attention it deserves.

Done right, a report will enhance an official’s credibility. Done wrong, a report can leave an official with fewer assignments — or worse, called into a court of law. Here are six common report errors to teach your members to avoid:

1. Too vague. Certain words and phrases used on the field or court trigger an ejection and shouldn’t be used in polite company, but they belong in the report. Saying Coach John Smith used “foul language” doesn’t provide enough detail. Each person’s definition of foul language can be different. Best to be specific and reflect the actual words. Quote exactly what the coach or player said.

2. Too much. You’re writing a game report, not a novel. You don’t need to detail the whole game. Stick to the incident. If something happened that led to an ejection, that’s what the report should cover. You don’t need to get into earlier matters that didn’t result in a warning or other official reprimand. Anything beyond that risks that the important details get lost, and you could inadvertently include details that make the ejection look “soft,” especially if it raises questions about how earlier situations were handled.

3. Goes beyond the facts. Whatever you do, don’t embellish the situation. Far worse for a supervisor to find out your details didn’t match the video that turns up, than to find out you were a little quick on the ejection. The latter is understandable; the former is unacceptable and leaves you with no credibility. What happened, happened. Officials often feel worse about an ejection than they should. Some feel it was a failure of game management — sometimes, however, it’s necessary for officials to deal with a situation with an ejection. Stick to the facts. A good supervisor will have your back.

4. Use slang and colloquial speech. Straight-forward, professional language will ensure your report is taken seriously. Talking about how the coach had you in the “crosshairs” that night, and after the ejection, he “wouldn’t immediately hit the showers” and assistants had to drag him away “kicking and screaming,” doesn’t lend credibility to the report. Keep the wording professional and stick to the facts without resorting to creative language.

5. Speculate. It doesn’t matter that you think the coach was upset that day because his pitcher was struggling or his starting quarterback was out. That doesn’t matter in a report that should stick to the facts. Just tell what happened. And don’t make accusations either — noting that you think there was no hot water after the game because the coach shut it off doesn’t belong in the report. Now if the coach’s post-ejection tirade included, “You’ll have no hot water after the game,” and that’s what happened, that’s a fact you can share.

6. Failing to file it. Sometimes officials think filing the report could impact their career. After they cool off, they think they’re doing everyone a favor to let it go. But an incident will come to light, and the lack of a report will make the official look bad. Supervisors prefer to hear about a situation from an official, even if it’s minor.

After your officials write a report, encourage them as a last step to check with crewmates and run it past a leader in the association (maybe your group has a person whose position involves reviewing game reports to ensure officials provide what’s needed and nothing more).

Brent Killackey is Referee’s managing editor and a high school baseball umpire.