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Behind The Mask

By Staff | Mar 17, 2010

Welcome back to Behind the Mask. I will be explaining fast pitch softball rules as defined by the National Federation of High School Association Rules book and Case book. One of the biggest reasons for rule changes is safety.

The reasons for the distance from home plate to the pitcher’s rubber; distance between bases; specifications for balls, bats, helmets, and faceguards; size of gloves; and no tolerance policy on jewelry, shoe buttons, batting circle and other items too numerous to mention are monitored by the NFHS and umpires and are all for the fairness and safety of the participants. The following are some of the rules on safety and are not to be misconstrued as being complete.

Some bases – and soon all bases – are designed to disengage when a runner slides and some states are now using a double first base for safety as well .

The softballs can only be of a .47 COR (coefficient of restitution) or less and a compression of 375 lbs. Umpires check these balls before the game and they are to be clearly marked.

While gloves shall be worn by all fielders they must be within a certain size and are not to be more than two colors. Gloves that are gray, white, optic or have a like colored circle are also illegal. Only the catcher may wear a glove or mitt of any size while a fielder may wear a first baseman’s mitt as long as it falls within the guidelines of Rules 1-4-2 and 1-4-3, which are 14 inches heel-to-tip, a width of eight inches and webbing of five inches.

Bats are governed under Rule 1-5. The size of the cylinder, the shape of the handle, the type of knob, as well as the grip of the handle are all safety issues. The bats must have ASA 2000 or 2004 on it, and not be on the ASA non-approved list, to be legal for use.

Batting helmets must have a permanent NOCSAE stamp and a legible exterior warning label as well as a NOCSAE approved face protector. This helmet must be worn by each batter, on-deck batter, player-student in the coaches’ box, runners, or retired runners while the ball is live or the participant is in a live-ball area.

The WVSSAC sent a letter to all registered schools, interpreting the National Federation rules regarding batting helmets. Any paint that is added to the batting helmet after it is received from the manufacturer renders the warranty null and void. The unapproved paint affects the plastic and can make it less stable. Therefore, making the helmet unsafe and illegal for use.

Note that this states any paint. This includes numbers as well as logos and designs.

A catcher’s helmet shall have a throat protector and also must have the NOCSAE seal and shall be worn when warming up a pitcher.

Jewelry is a big point of safety. Players are prohibited from wearing jewelry such as rings, watches, earrings, bracelets, necklaces (including cloth or string types), barrettes, or other hard cosmetic or decorative items. However, bobbie pins may now be worn to hold hair in place if it meets the size requirements. Religious and medical-alert medals are not considered jewelry. A religious medal must be taped and worn under the uniform. A medical-alert medal must be taped and may be visible.

One other area of safety which seems to always occur during softball season is lightning disturbances. Schools, as well as officials, use given guidelines each year to provide a default policy to help make decisions concerning the suspension and restarting of a game based on the presence of lightning. If lightning is seen with a 30 second or less flash-to-bang count, it calls for immediate removal of the athletes from the field to appropriate shelter. It is suggested by Ohio and West Virginia that if any lightning or thunder is heard to suspend the game at that time and err on the side of safety.

To restart the game after a suspension, the 30-minute rule comes into effect. The game may not restart until at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning is witnessed or thunder is heard. As an example, if the game was suspended at 7 p.m. the game will be due to resume at 7:30 p.m.. However, if at 7:22 p.m. thunder or lightening is heard or witnessed the 30 minute time period would restart.

While these examples do not cover everything in the rule book concerning safety, the umpire has the right to rule on any equipment or condition not covered or deemed potentially dangerous.

I hope this article will allow fans to better understand the rules of the game. If anyone has a rule they would like discussed or explained please contact Bruce Crawford at 304-455-3300.