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Pitching proposal seeks to clarify windup, set position in baseball

Reentry for players who pass concussion protocol recommended

The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee recommended rules to clarify when pitchers are pitching out of a windup or stretch position.

Committee members, who met by videoconference Tuesday through Thursday, felt this interpretation needs to be made to help umpires, base runners and coaches discern when a pitcher is in a windup or stretch due to the unique starting points on the mound that have entered the game in recent years.

If approved, it would become effective for the 2020-21 academic year.

Under the proposal, the pitcher would be in the windup when facing the batter while his pivot foot is in contact with the pitcher’s plate and the other foot is free.

A pitcher would be considered in the set/stretch position when he stands facing the batter with his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate and his other foot in front of the pitcher’s plate while holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop.

With a runner or runners on base, a pitcher would be presumed to be pitching from the stretch if he stands with his pivot foot in contact with and parallel to the pitcher’s plate and his other foot in front of the pitcher’s plate.

However, in the scenario above, a pitcher could notify the home plate umpire that he is pitching out of a windup position before the beginning of an at-bat. The pitcher would be allowed to inform the umpire he is changing to pitch out of a windup during an at-bat when:

  • A substitution is made by the offensive team.
  • One or more base runners advance during the at-bat.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is tentatively scheduled to discuss baseball recommendations Sept. 9.

Concussion evaluations

The committee proposed allowing any player who is removed for a concussion evaluation to return to the game if cleared by medical personnel.

The committee supported the proposal, which came from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

The player undergoing concussion evaluation, whether a starter or a substitute, could be replaced by any eligible player who has not participated in the game.

If the injured player is cleared to resume participation, he may resume his lineup spot only. A player may reenter the game only one time. The temporary replacement player may again participate in the game as a substitute in the same lineup spot only.

If a temporary replacement player is substituted for (pinch runner, pinch hitter or defensive substitution), that player would not be allowed to reenter the game.

If a temporary replacement player is removed for a concussion evaluation, that player may reenter only in that position in the lineup.

If a team has no remaining eligible players, a starter or substitute who has previously participated in the game could replace the injured player.

Coaches challenges

The committee recommended that if a coach initiates a video-review challenge and the original call is overturned, the coach would keep the challenge. Currently, coaches are allowed only two video-review challenges, regardless of whether the original call is overturned.

Designated hitter

If approved, the NCAA designated hitter rule would be simplified and more closely resemble the rule used in professional baseball. A starting pitcher could be co-listed in the lineup as the designated hitter.

Visual bat inspection

Since the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel delayed implementation of regular-season bat barrel compression testing in Divisions II and III due to budget constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee clarified visual bat inspection protocols.

They are:

  • Ensure the bat model appears on the approved bat list.
  • Ensure the bat model does not appear on the NCAA noncompliant bat list.
  • Ensure the bat does not have flat spots.
  • Ensure the bat does not have an audible rattle.
  • Ensure the bat does not have cracks, attachments, or a loose knob or end caps.

Penalty for leaving dugout, bullpen during an altercation

Committee members recommended that any team personnel, besides the coaching staff, who leave the dugout or bullpen and enter the field of play during an altercation or fight would be ejected and have to serve a one-game suspension.

The rationale for the proposal is to prevent further escalations or unsportsmanlike conduct.

Foreign substance

The committee proposed that any pitcher or defensive player caught putting a foreign substance on the ball would be ejected immediately. Currently, a player caught adding a foreign substance is warned first and ejected on any subsequent violations.

Experimental technology rule

Committee members approved extending the current experimental rule that allows for one-way communication from the dugout to the field to signal in pitches. Teams may be approved to use communication devices such as a wrist device, in-ear device or digital display board in or on top of the dugout.

Conferences must request to implement the experimental rule through the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee.

Since the 2020 season was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, committee members faced a unique task for this year’s rules meeting.

“The committee had to factor the current climate into some of the decisions that were made,” said Fritz Hamburg, rules committee chair and coach at Saint Joseph’s. “We had some very lengthy discussions on several proposals to ensure that we felt comfortable with our decisions.”