Rule Changes Coming To Softball

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The National Federation of State High School Associations approved a number of rule changes during a meeting June 14-16. Both Washington and Oregon are members of the NFHS.

The rule receiving the most attention deals with Rule 3-2-5b, language dealing with items to control hair. In a move taken after multiple stories were published regarding hair beads and cultural sensitivity, all language regarding hard items to control hair was removed.

Following the same line of thought, softball players can now also wear head coverings for religious reasons. In the past, a state association was required to approve the covering, but the new rule bypasses state approval.

“The NFHS, in its effort to be a learning organization and one that is founded on the basis of inclusion is striving to work with our young participants in our efforts to celebrate the beautiful diversity that continues to increase,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, in a recent The NFHS Voice. “We are excited about that and want to support that. And while we will always strive to keep kids safe and keep games being played the way they were designed to be played, we do want to recognize the importance of a young person’s identity.”

The actual ball will change effective January 1, 2025. The change will come compression and weight/circumference for balls in fast-pitch competition.

A clarification has been added on interference. A runner now will be considered outside the running lane if either foot last contacted the ground completely outside the lane.

“Based on previous wording, some umpires established their ruling on whether the runner’s foot was on the ground or in the air when the interference occurred,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Softball Rules Committee. “The new wording more adequately describes the intent of the rule and will provide more consistent enforcement.”

Don’t use a damaged bat. A new penalty was added and wording was changed to “batters shall not use a damaged bat that was previously removed from the game by an umpire.” And the accompanying penalty is as follows: “The batter shall be called out and the offender and head coach shall be restricted to the dugout for the remainder of the game.”

Other changes for the upcoming season include:

  • Removable Bases. Rule 1-2-1 – Bases for first, second and third may be designed to disengage from their anchor system. This language was added to Rule 1 where all field and equipment rules exist. Similar language is already addressed in Rule 8-8-14 EFFECT, which states that a runner reaching a base safely will not be out for being off the base if it becomes dislodged.
  • No jean shorts hopefully. Rule 3-5-3 – New language defines what is permissible attire for coaches during a game.
  • No pitcher’s bling. Rule 6-2-2 – The following language was moved to a Note to provide support to keep pitchers legal but removed the discrepancy in penalties from Rule 3-2-9: “A pitcher shall not wear any item on the pitching hand, wrist, arm or thighs which the umpire judges to be distracting to the batter.”