July 23, 2010

NCAA Release

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee has voted to implement rules that address the pace of play and proposed an alteration to the rules governing obstruction by fielders.

After allowing the use of a pitch and between innings clock experimentally last year, the committee voted to mandate the use of a timing device and implemented penalties for non-compliance. Current rules require pitchers to start their delivery in no more than 20 seconds without runners on base. This rule remains and an umpire will be required to monitor and enforce this time limit. Additionally, in non-televised games, umpires will enforce a 90 second limit between innings. The committee recommended a time limit for televised games of 108 seconds, which the Southeastern Conference used experimentally during the 2010 season. However, the committee acknowledged that the time between innings will continue to be a negotiable point in television agreements.

“The committee was pleased with the results of the clock experimentation last year,” said Gary Overton, chair of the committee and associate athletics director at East Carolina University. “We believe that enforcing these time limits will keep the pace of the game moving without artificially altering the game.”

In this proposal, conferences may choose to use a visible clock and assign a qualified operator (e.g., back-up umpire) to administer these rules.

The committee also proposed a slight change to the obstruction rules, in an effort to provide fielders the ability to make a play on a thrown ball during a play at a base. Previously, any contact made between a fielder and runner could be called obstruction unless the fielder had possession of the ball. In the new proposal, a fielder that has established himself will be provided the opportunity to field the throw without penalty.

“This change is being made after careful consideration of our current rule and how this play was adjudicated previously,” said Overton. “The rules governing collisions and dangerous plays have not changed, but the committee believes the fielder must be allowed some room to make a play on a thrown ball.”

The committee plans to collect and distribute numerous video examples to assist umpires, coaches and student-athletes with the understanding of this rules change. During pickoff plays, an exception was approved that requires the fielder to have possession of the ball before any contact with the runner occurs.

The committee’s proposals will be sent to the membership for comment and be reviewed by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel at their August meeting.

The committee approved two points of emphasis for this rules cycle as well, which covers the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The relationship between coaches and umpire is an area of continued concern and the management of the pace of play/batter’s box rules are the points the committee believes require additional attention.

“The committee recognizes the need for coaches and umpires to continue to engage in healthy discussion and explanation of the rules without creating unneeded delays in the game and unsporting conduct,” Overton said. “This is the balance we’re trying to achieve.”

In other actions, the committee:

- Limited offensive team personnel to the warning track area (recommended to be 15 feet) outside the dugout during home run celebrations.

-Will allow the experimental use of re-entry rules for Division III institutions in response to requests for additional participation opportunities. In this experimental phase, mutual consent of both coaches must be in place (or conference policy), similar to the use of the 10-run rule. The re-entry rule allows a starter to return to the game after being substituted for, but he must return to the same position in the lineup. The pitcher and designated hitter may not re-enter the game once removed.

-Named Jeff Hurd, senior associate commissioner at the Western Athletic Conference, as chair of the committee.