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2023 College Baseball Rule Changes

Photo: Zach Ragan / AtoZ Sports Nashville

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel voted on Thursday to approve proposed rule changes in college baseball for the upcoming 2023 season. Among those changes are action clock modifications, expanded video replay review, and the ban of celebratory props outside of the dugout.

Action Clock Modifications

Before the 2020 season, the NCAA introduced a 20-second action clock for the intent of speeding up the pace of play. This meant with runners on base, pitchers had 20 seconds to begin their motion toward home plate or make a pickoff attempt. One caveat to this rule was that pitchers could perform unlimited step-offs or fake throws without penalty to reset that 20-second clock.

Beginning in 2023, pitchers will be allowed one step-off or fake throw per batter to reset the action clock. If a defensive player is granted a timeout, it will also be counted as a step-off and burn the pitcher's ability to use that for the remainder of the at-bat.

A pitcher will still be allowed unlimited pickoff attempts during an at-bat, but they must deliver the ball to either a base, or home plate, every 20 seconds.

As it was before, if a pitcher fails to deliver a pitch or pick-off attempt within that window, a ball will be added to the count. Alternatively, if a batter is unprepared to hit within that 20 second window, a strike will be added to the count.

At least one action clock must be visible on the field of play by Jan. 1, 2024 for Division I, and by Jan. 1, 2025 for Divisions II and III.

Video Review

Beginning in 2023, umpires can now initiate video reviews to determine if malicious contact or misconduct occurred, while also being able to initiate reviews for catcher's interference.

Fence Padding

Beginning in 2023, a minimum three-foot fence or protective netting must be in place on the field side of dugouts. The fence must be installed by Jan. 1, 2024 for Division I, and by Jan. 1, 2025 for Divisions II and III. They also recommended padding be added to all hard surfaces that a player could collide with during play.

RIP to all the open dugouts that remained in college baseball. The Oakland Coliseum will soon be one of the last stadiums in all of baseball without dugout fencing.

On-Field Props

Beginning in 2023, celebratory props will not be allowed outside of the dugout.

College baseball has received a lot of positive attention in the past few seasons, mainly driven by the fun antics and energy coming from the players - something that isn't as common at the Major League level. Some of the more viral moments came from home run celebrations that many teams adopted, such as Tennessee's fur coat, the OSU cowboy hat, or Virginia Tech's hammer. With the new rule, teams will no longer be able to perform these celebrations outside of the dugout.

This decision likely doesn't come as a surprise to those that paid attention during the 2022 Road to Omaha, as the NCAA banned the use of props on the field before the Super Regionals due to "potentially volatile situations" observed in the Regionals.

“During last weekend’s NCAA Division I Regional baseball games, a number of potentially volatile situations were observed at various sites. Rule 5-17 of the NCAA Baseball Rules states that “Any orchestrated activities by dugout personnel designed to distract, intimidate, or disconcert the opposing team or reflect poor sportsmanship shall not be allowed.” In the interest of promoting good sportsmanship, participants at all locations were asked to restrict any activities that use props of any kind to within the dugout.” - Randy Bruns, NCAA Baseball Secretary Rules Editor

The players and fans, of course, didn't appreciate having their season-long celebrations being brought to an abrupt halt, as seen in Carson DeMartini's postgame interview with Virginia Tech during the Super Regionals.

As much as college baseball has benefited from the celebratory props, it makes sense the NCAA would take this action. It would only take one player with poor aim to bring the hammer down on a teammate's foot, ending their season and opening the floodgates for litigation. Perhaps the NCAA could have limited their ban to wearable props only, but it is a safer move for them to outlaw props all together. Knowing college baseball players, the antics will remain alive and well within the confines of the dugout.

Other Changes

  • Coaching appeals must be made in the middle of the respective foul line, not the dirt circle around home plate.

  • Either by conference rule or mutual consent between the two teams, a game could be completed with one umpire.

  • Either by conference rule or mutual consent between the two teams, all extra innings (10th inning of a nine-inning game or eighth inning of a seven-inning doubleheader game) would start with a runner on second base.


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