The role of designated hitter in high school baseball has been expanded to give coaches an additional option in 2020.
According to Eliot Hopkins, director of the National Federation of State High School Association, the game is in the best shape it has been in thehistory of high school baseball.
There are two scenarios in which a designated hitter may be used.
The first scenario is the traditional use, where the designated hitter may be a tenth batter who hits for any of the nine defensive starters.
The team starts the game with ten starters, nine defensive players and nine batters in the batting order, one of whom is the designated hitter, hitting for a defensive player.
According to Hopkins, the committee felt it was necessary to make an additional option available to coaches that could be strategic, but also maximize participation.
Also according to Hopkins, the traditional designated hittter stays intact. However,the committee felt it was necessary to make additional options too.
The rule change to rule 3-1-4 now allows the starting designated hitter to also be a starting defensive player. Utilizing this option, the player has two positions, defensive player and designated hitter. The team will begin the game with nine starters, nine defensive players, and one of whom also assumes the role of designated hitter.
With the change adding pitch count restrictions to high school baseball, this allows pitchers to remain in the game as a hitter, after the player is removed from pitching.
Typically, pitchers are stronger hitters as well. However, the intent of the rule is not for it to become strictly a pitcher designated hitter role. The rule provides an additional avenue for other position players as well. The change allows coaches to develop strategies on how to keep players in the game, to contribute offensively while allowing another player a chance to participate on defense.
Additionally, a prior rule change involving baseballs, and chest and body protectors, will take affect on Jan. 1, 2020. As of that date, all baseballs and chest protectors used in high school baseball competition shall meet the National Operating Committee on Standards of Athletic Equipment at the time of manufacture.