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Umps, coaches discuss rule changes

By By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
Jan. 17, 2002
The appeal is making its return to area baseball and softball diamonds this spring.
Baseball and fast-pitch softball coaches from East Mississippi were on hand at Northwest Junior High School on Tuesday night to learn about the new rules for the upcoming season.
The prep baseball season and the girls fast-pitch softball season openers are less than a month away. On hand to help cover the rules was Mississippi High School Activities Association officer Larry Thomas.
Perhaps the biggest rule change for both sports is that the appeal rule is back. Another rule clarification in fast-pitch softball is on a dropped ball when a pitcher is in her wind-up.
As far as the return of the appeal rule, teams can now make an appeal if they think a runner has left the bag too early on a fly ball or has missed a bag while circling the bases. The appeal can be made in either a live or dead ball situation.
Instead of the old appeal system which calls for the ball to be dead and for the pitcher to call time, ask for an appeal, and then throw a pitch toward the disputed base, defensive players can now make an immediate appeal toward the dispute base.
There was also clarification on the illegal bat rule. If a bat becomes broken or cracked, the only penalty remedy will be the removal of the bat.
In the case of an altered bat, the defense has the option of either taking the result of the play or having the batter called out. The option is there in case the batter hits into a double play. An illegal bat is one that is either too light, has too big of a barrel or has been tampered with like in the infamous case of George Brett.
The 10-run rule which has existed under optional agreement has now become a rule in the state guidelines. The state has adopted a 10-run rule after five innings.
In 2003, two equipment rules become mandatory as set down by the National Baseball Federation. They include the new helmet standard for catchers and batters.
All new helmets by 2003 must have ear flaps. Catchers will be allowed to use the so-called hockey style helmet as long as it carries an approved seal.
Bats must meet the ball-exit, speed-ratio requirement by 2003 as well. This will apply to all non-wood bats.
Thomas made a special point in the early part of the meeting to tell coaches that days of lining up games and then canceling them should be over. An example would be a team calling to cancel in order to save pitching.
Charles Naylor, the assigning secretary of the East Mississippi Baseball Umpires Association, is hoping that coaches will help with creating a better professional atmosphere for all involved.