Learn the NFHS DH Rule Change

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Explore an overview of the NFHS Designated Hitter rules change for the 2020 high school baseball season.

The 2020 baseball season brings a change to the NFHS DH Rule. The rule is explained in-depth in their 2020 Preseason Guide. Here are a couple more resources to help with learning the rule.

New Designated Hitter Rule

From NFHS website:

3-1-4:  Designated Hitter (DH) can be used in two ways. The DH can be listed as the tenth starter replacing one of the other nine players when it is their turn to bat. The other method is that that any one of the starting defensive players can be their own DH (in effect having two positions) within the confines of the rule requirements.  
Rationale: This rule change assists coaches with an alternative to keep their better players in the game to contribute to the offensive output of the team and give another player a chance to participate on defense. In addition, considering the pitch count rules, this change would help pitchers to keep their bat in the game, but can come out of the game defensively to protect their arms from overuse.

Read the NFHS post announcing the rule change

Applying the New DH Rule

The DH may now be any one of the starting defensive players, including the pitcher. A Player/Designated Hitter (P/DH) then holds two positions – a defensive position player and DH. All other aspects of the DH rule remain the same.

  • Teams can still use the traditional DH for any player to start the game (Smith DH & Jones Right Fielder)
  • Teams can also still use a ‘straight nine’ lineup

Team forfeits role of DH if:

  • Not declared at the start of the game
  • The defensive player for whom the DH batted, subsequently enters the game offensively (hitter, or runner)
  • The DH assumes a defensive position (goes in as a fielder)
  • When using P/DH , any player substitutes offensively for the DH
    • If the P/DH is substituted for defensively, we now have the same DH and a new player in on defense. In other words ANY time we change the hitter or runner we lose the DH when using a P/DH

General Overview

A player listed as P/DH is in both the offensive and defensive lineups. If P/DH leaves the DEFENSIVE lineup, they can remain in the OFFENSIVE lineup. For Example: Smith is the P/DH to start the game. In the 5th inning Jones comes into play RF for Smith. Smith is now the DH only and Jones the fielder only; however, if Smith is pinch hit or pinch ran for, then we lose the DH. The substitute is now in both offensively and defensively for Smith and there in no longer a DH.

Courtesy Runners are NOT allowed for P/DH combo when the pitcher is serving as the P/DH. NFHS states that the P/DH, when batting, is in as the role of DH. As such no CR is allowed for the DH. So CR are only allowed for a pitcher who is not listed as P/DH.

Clarification (2/11/20): CHSAA has adopted a state association exception to the Courtesy Runner part of the Player/DH rule. In Colorado, if the Player/DH is a pitcher or catcher, the ARE ALLOWED to use a courtesy runner.

For state adopted rules see: http://www.chsbua.com/rules.html
The courtesy runner is addressed in 2-33-1 (a).

Important Note: The Colorado state umpire association requests that the plate umpire verify with coaches and make note of the type of lineup being presented during the pregame meeting.

  • Straight 9
  • Traditional DH
  • Player/DH
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