Rules Proposals Draw NCAA SupportColumns
The Southeastern Conference’s role as a trend setter in college baseball continued with the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee supporting the implementation of the league’s latest proposed experimental rules.
The rules must be approved by NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel before they can be implemented for the 2018 baseball season, and would only apply to SEC regular season conference games and conference tournament games. There’s a good chance it passes considering the stamp of approval from the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee. The panel will discuss these rules changes in a conference call on August 16.
So, what are the experimental changes?
The most important proposal is an expansion of the video review/instant replay procedures. Under the SEC’s proposed rule change, a coach would be granted one video challenge per game. Should the challenge succeed, the coach would have another to use later in the game. However, if it failed, he’d lose the ability to challenge another play the rest of the game. That would not preclude the umpire crew from initiating a video review.
While the current reviewable plays are narrow in scope, the proposal from the NCAA would expand it to force/tag play calls, hit-by-pitch calls, tag-up plays, placement of runners situations and interference by runners when breaking up a double play. The expansion also would include the following base-running calls: Calls involving whether a base runner passes a preceding runner before that runner is out; determinations of whether a base runner scored ahead of a third out; and, upon an appropriate appeal by the defensive team, whether a base runner touched a base.
Expanded replay and video review would be welcomed by much of the sport after repeated blown calls at this year’s College World Series, something that should never happen on the sport’s grandest stage. While this change, for now, applies to the SEC, other conferences would have the ability to do the same once the Rules Panel approves it.
Another interesting aspect of this proposal is the addition of a wireless ear piece in the catcher’s helmet to improve pace of play. Under this proposal, the pitch to be thrown would be relayed via the ear piece as opposed to through signs or numerical codes. Advocates of the rule change say this addition would decrease the time of games by 20-25 minutes, while some purists believe the rule goes too far, and more emphasis should be placed on teaching catchers to call their own games. The latter sounds nice in theory, but in a day and age when coaches are expected to make quick turnarounds at their respective programs, they can ill afford to have their fortunes hinge, in some cases, on a young catcher and signal caller.
Some coaches, such as TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle, aren’t necessarily against having an ear piece in the catcher’s helmet. However, Schlossnagle believes there are better ways to help improve pace of play, such as limiting the amount of time for mound visits from coaches, limiting the number of mound visits by players on the field, no offensive timeouts with no runners on and no signs from the third-base coaching box with no runners on. Those suggestions will have varied opinions across the college baseball spectrum, but make a lot of sense. Schlossnagle added that the Big 12 has yet to have an detailed discussions on a catcher’s ear piece, but did say that some coaches in the league are against it for the time being.
“I’m in the middle on the ear piece issue, but I’d be fine if that’s the route we took. I just think there are other ways to speed up the game,” Schlossnagle said. “There’s nothing I hate more than having the game rolling and the third base coach slows the game down in order to disrupt the pitcher. I think that makes the game look bad.”
Lastly, the committee proposed more rigorous and frequent bat testing beginning in 2020. This allows schools and conferences to get money to pay for the testing equipment, which costs $1,500. Under this new rule, bat testing would apply to the regular season and would be conducted before the first game of the series and before every midweek game. This would be a welcomed addition to college baseball, as coaches from around the country have often approached me with accusations that a certain team is using juiced bats, or even more obvious, hitters are handing the same bat to the next hitter over and over.
All these changes could be a good development for the sport. Though they still must be approved by the Rules Oversight Panel, you are seeing a shift in the aggressiveness of the sport’s decision makers on issues that could immediately help the sport. Why, you ask? During the two weeks in Omaha, NCAA Baseball Committee chairman Scott Sidwell consistently stated that he was more concerned with tackling good proposals that could be quickly pushed through as opposed to getting bogged down by bigger and more long-term battles. That doesn’t mean Sidwell doesn’t want to increase scholarships. He does. Everyone does. But he’s also practical, and this approach makes the most sense for now.
Now, we wait and see what the Rules Panel decides.