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Sun, Dec. 15

NFHS Baseball Rules Committee expands DH

Camp Verde first baseman/DH Wylie Howe bats last season. The NFHS decided to expand the role of designated hitters in high school baseball starting in 2020. VVN/James Kelley

Camp Verde first baseman/DH Wylie Howe bats last season. The NFHS decided to expand the role of designated hitters in high school baseball starting in 2020. VVN/James Kelley

Designated hitters in high school baseball will have an expanded roles starting in 2020.

Last month, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Baseball Rules Committee decided to revise Rule 3-1-4.

There will be two cases where the designated hitter can be used. In the first, the DH could be a 10th starter who hits for any of the nine defensive players. Each lineup would still have nine players on defense and nine batters but one would be a designated hitter who bats for one of the fielders.

In the other situation, the designated hitter can also be a starting defensive player. That player would have two positions: their defensive one and DH. Pitchers would be still be able to bat when they leave the game if they are DH too.

“The game is in the best shape it has ever been in the history of high school baseball,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and liaison to the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee in a press release. “This has allowed coaches to coach, players to play and umpires to umpire. This change, which was organic and intuitive, expands the role of the designated hitter and meets the desires of the high school baseball community.”

Camp Verde High head coach Will Davis said the rule will have a bigger impact on larger schools but for all schools it means kids get more opportunities to play.

“For a small school like ours, competitive-wise, it’s not gonna make a huge difference — it’s not like we have a whole lot of good players that aren’t starting but on the other side of that, it’s gonna help a lot when it comes to being able to get guys more playing time,” Davis said. “The rule really just adjusts how you can use the DH and how you can substitute, so it’s not going to be a competitive advantage in any way for a small school. The bigger schools, it’s going to be huge for them when they have such a deep bench.”

Davis said the rule will help teams with a lot of versatile players like Camp Verde but most of all at the 2A level it will help private schools

“It definitely is going to help schools that are more competitive than it will a school that’s not very competitive, that’s for sure, it really comes down to competitive advantage, is what it’s going to bring,” Davis said. “They word it as more of ‘opportunity’ and it will add opportunities, so definitely don’t get that wrong and I love the ability to be able to use an extra player, in every game, whether it be at the DH or as a defensive replacement for say a catcher or a pitcher with the new rule change. I mean that’s great, that’s wonderful and it’s all about the kids anyway, so yeah I definitely love it for that reason but competitively for smaller schools like ours, even the ones that are at the top end of the small schools it’s not going to help us a lot, our benches just aren’t that deep. We don’t have POs, we don’t pitcher onlys kinda guys, we just don’t and that’s where this rule’s really gonna make a big difference, it’s for schools that do have kids that great pitchers but don’t play a lot of defense or a great DH and a great pitcher and then when that pitcher comes out they can adjust and move a new defensive player in to that spot still let that pitcher continue to hit.”

Davis said it will be more fun for coaches to have more options.

“The worst thing as a coach is looking down at bench thinking ‘how can I get these guys in today?’ and that gives you another tool to be able to do that because you love them all the same, it doesn’t matter what their skill level is,” Davis said. “Some of your favorite players a lot of times aren’t starters and so this really gives you that versatility to be able to use them in certain situations where they can be helpful to the team and get them more playing time, which is huge, that part of it is very important.”

The rule is another major change for baseball in Arizona, three years ago the AIA added a pitch count limit, based on the player’s age and when they last pitched.

“For a small school it’s changed a lot because usually schools in the one, two and 3A level we don’t have a lot of high quality pitching,” Davis said. “We have one or two good pitchers and then a lot of average guys behind him. And so in the past those one or two quality pitchers have been used and over used, where with the pitch count now you just can’t do that, which is good, because I never did it anyway. So the pitch count rule really never affected me, I’m kids before wins, always, always, always. So that just never affected me near as much as it probably would have the private school that had the one ace that threw 90 miles an hour and they ran him out for 150 innings and 150 pitches a game.”

He said the pitch count rule made games more fun for the Cowboys.

“Those guys on the lower end of your pitching rotation know they’re going to get time just based on pitch counts,” Davis said. “It’s a brutal schedule, where you play 30 games over a two and a half month span, basically you’re playing a game every second to third day and a lot of back to backs and double headers and so with the pitch count a lot of these kids are getting a lot more time, especially on the mound and so you know that’s obviously really good for the sport in general.”

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