Friday, May 6, 2005

School Rules

by Tim Stevens
WIAA Director of Baseball

Clearing up the high school designated hitter rule

Here's a question for you...what two letters significantly stand out toward the middle of the phrase, "My head hurts?"   If you said "DH" then you would have an idea as to the latest puzzlement that seems to be passing through the NBUA ranks as we wind down the 2005 season. The high school DH rule is actually intended to be more simplistic than its corresponding OBR rule in implementing, but it takes a little doing to remember the differences between the two.

We all know (hopefully) that in high school the DH is allowed to bat for any defensive position, and not just the pitcher. That being the case, I will use the term PDHF to represent the person being DH'd for throughout the remainder of this article, since I don't want to keep typing all of those letters over and over again. The important thing to remember is that the DH is the person who starts the game as the DH, and the PDHF is the person who starts the game playing defense only. These roles will change in the examples given.

The single most important thing to remember about the high school DH rule is that the DH and PDHF are "married" to each other in the lineup. That means that there is only one way in which the DH and PDHF can be in the game at the same time: DH batting, PDHF playing defense only. There is no manner of creative lineup manipulation that can put both players in the game playing both ways.

Let's say that you're working Enron vs. Worldcom and Enron Coach Kenny Lay wants to make a change in the lineup. He's got his DH in the #4 slot, batting for his catcher, and his shortstop in the #7 slot.  "I wanna make a change, blue," he says, not paying the least bit of attention that you and your partner are decked out entirely in black and don't have a stitch of blue material within 100 yards of you. "I'm going to bring my DH in to play shortstop and put my catcher in to bat in the #7 spot. My shortstop is out of the game."   Regardless of how much he wants to try to cook the books, all you have to remember is that DH and PDHF can't both play offense and defense at the same time. As such, there is no way the DH can play defense without the catcher leaving the game.

Another scenario that is creeping up has to do with younger coaches whose last experience was as a player in the NCAA. They will attempt to implement the NCAA P/DH rule, which takes a Master's Degree in Accounting and twelve fifths of Jim Beam to try to understand. Rather than worry about how the NCAA DH rule "works," you simply need to be able to identify a coach attempting to work it in the HS game and quash it effectively. This will occur when one of two things happens: 1) The coach starts the game with nine players and, at some point in the game, attempts to change pitchers but leave the starting pitcher in the game as a batter; or 2) The coach starts the game with ten players, and at some point wants to bring the DH in replace the pitcher. In situation one, once a game starts with nine players it must be played with nine players (unless it goes down to eight, which we won't cover here). The coach cannot apply the NCAA rule to turn the game from nine to ten players. Situation two is okay, but what may happen later is that the coach may try to split the pitcher and DH back up again to go to a ten-man lineup. Again, once nine, always nine in high school. You sure you wanna work your way up to college ball with these funky rules?

These are by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities, but these are the most common scenarios that are not allowed by the high school book but that are okay in other books.   Again, remember the three basic principles of the DH rule:

  1. If the DH plays defense, the role of the DH is done for the game;
  2. If the PDHF plays offense, the role of the DH is done for the game;
  3. The only way the DH and PDHF can be in the game at the same time is for the DH to bat and PDHF to play defense.
By keeping these foremost in your mind you should easily be able to handle any convoluted situation these crafty coaches throw at you.

If you have any items that you have a question on or would like to see addressed, contact Tim Stevens at