The National Federation of State High School Associations made some significant rule changes at its annual convention held July 6 in Indianapolis, Ind.
Among them were changes that put more responsibilities on baseball coaches to be sure all bats used are in compliance with prep rules.
“The committee is placing a great importance on increased coach responsibility, said Elliot Hopkins, the NFHS assistant director and liaison to the Baseball Rules Committee.
The rules changes were most likely made because bat tampering is an illegal and major problem in some high school baseball programs, but does not appear to be a dilemma at smaller rural high schools, like Payson.
Tampering is a problem, coaches and officials say, because it increases the risk for players who might be struck by a batted ball from a high-tech composite or altered bat.
With the new rule changes, each head coach must now verify to the lead umpire that his players are legally equipped and the “bats are unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design.”
Prior to the start of Longhorn baseball games last season, it was the umpires who entered both dugouts and asked players if the bats were legal while personally inspecting the bats.
With the rule changes, umpires will no long be required to perform pregame equipment checks.
While the most important factor in hitting a ball is skill, speed and timing, players have long known that the construction of the bat has an effect on hitting performance.
Among the ways of “doctoring” a wood bat is “corking” which involves replacing the interior section with another material, which can increase elasticity of altered bats that hit what are called “super balls.”
With synthetic bats, manufactures can add weight to the knob or end cap of the hollow shell because heavier bats impart more impulse to the ball.
Another bat altering method is to reduce the barrel wall thickness or “shave” the bat in an effort to improve the “energy” of the bat.
Another tampering technique is Accelerated Break In or “ABI” which involves intentionally damaging the bat, which can result in performance, or “barrel compliance,” increases.
That method is popular with high-tech composite bats because they require sophisticated techniques to identify internal cracking.