The NFHS Softball Rules Committee has approved the wearing of jewelry in the sport, effective with the 2023 season. Previously, only medical and religious medals were permitted.
The removal of the previous Rule 3-2-12 from the 2022 NFHS Softball Rules Book headlined a set of six rules changes forwarded by the committee. The six proposed changes were compiled at the committee’s recent rules meeting held June 13-15 at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Indianapolis and were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
“The NFHS Softball Rules Committee has entertained this possible rule change on multiple occasions based on previous proposals submitted by the membership,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Softball Rules Committee. “This year’s overwhelming member response in favor of permitting the wearing of jewelry strongly influenced the Committee’s decision to approve this proposal. Rule language, however, continues to allow umpires the authority to expel items they deem dangerous or distracting to any player.”
In a causal change, Rule 3-6-11 strengthens language to emphasize that electronic devices only be used in the dugout during games to prevent teams from utilizing them as an on-field signaling system under the new jewelry-friendly regulations.
Color restrictions for gloves and mitts were also loosened as part of Rule 1-4-1. Previously, gloves and mitts could not consist of more than two colors excluding lacing and manufacturer’s logos. For the 2023 season, there will be no limit on the number of colors as long as no part of the glove/mitt – including lacing and seams – is the same color as the ball; has markings that give the appearance of the ball; or is made in a manner that is distracting to the umpire.
To more accurately depict final scores and individual and team statistics, a new clause was added to Rule 4-2-1 stating that all baserunners involved in a game-ending home run will be scored and credited to the winning team. Previously, only the number of runs needed to win the contest were officially counted in the final score.
Rule 8-2-7, which deals with batter-runner interference, was reformatted to address the infraction in fair territory – “with a fielder attempting to make an initial play on a fair batted ball” (Rule 8-2-7a) – and in foul territory – “with a fielder attempting to field a fly ball over foul territory” (Rule 8-2-7b).
The final rule change for the 2023 season is the insertion of Rule 2-20-1g pertaining to the definition of a fair ball. This new language clarifies that a batted ball will be ruled a fair ball and a dead ball in the instance an offensive player interferes with a defensive player while the ball is in fair territory. Placing this language within the definition of a fair ball also makes it consistent with the definition of a foul ball that is covered in Rule 2-25-1e.
A complete listing of the softball rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Softball.”
According to the most recent NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, fast-pitch softball is the fifth-most popular sport for girls with 362,038 participants in 15,877 high schools nationwide. The survey also indicated an additional 6,602 participants in slow-pitch softball.