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Greg Johnson | | August 19, 2017

A coach’s challenge, wireless communication approved for SEC baseball

A coach’s challenge, wireless communication will take place in SEC games

Baseball video review will be expanded on an experimental basis in 2018.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a request from the Southeastern Conference to allow experimental rules for a coach’s challenge system and wireless communication from the dugout to the catcher. The rules will be in effect during the 2018 SEC regular season and conference tournament games only.

The experimental rules are not allowed in nonconference games involving SEC teams.

The challenge system recommendation provides a coach with one challenge to have a call overturned by video review. If the challenge is successful, that coach would be able to challenge another play later in the game.

If the challenge is unsuccessful, the coach loses the ability to issue a challenge for the rest of the game. However, the umpiring crew still can initiate a video review to ensure the original call was correct.

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The proposal also expands the number of plays that can be reviewed to include:

Force/tag play calls: Plays involving all runners acquiring the base before the defensive player’s attempt to put the runner out at any base.

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.

Hit-by-pitch calls: Those plays for which there is a possibility that a pitched ball touches a batter or his clothing.

Tag-up plays: An umpire’s decision whether a runner failed to retouch the base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught by a fielder. (Plays in which the runner attempts to tag-up from third base currently can be reviewed. This request expands the review to all bases.)

Placement of runners: An umpire’s placement of all runners after any boundary call.

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Wireless communication

The experimental rule for wireless communication between the dugout and the catcher will be conducted to see if it improves the pace of play.

Catchers will wear an earpiece to hear the type of pitch the coaching staff wants thrown. Currently, many teams communicate with the catchers through numerical codes. The catcher looks at a wristband to see which pitch the coaching staff wants thrown, then relays the sign to the pitcher.

The Baseball Rules Committee is seeking feedback on whether this direct communication enhances the game.

Bat barrel

The panel approved a proposal that requires the barrel of the bat to be a color that contrasts with the ball from 18 inches above the knob to the end cap. The rule is effective for the 2020 season.

The panel sent a proposal on bat testing back to the Baseball Rules Committee for further discussion. The proposal would make bat testing a regular-season rule starting in the 2020 season. Division II and Division III schools have voiced some concern about the cost of purchasing the equipment to conduct the testing and have questioned whether the regular-season testing is necessary in those divisions.

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