It is often stated that a concise summary of the responsibilities of umpires is to ensure that the game is played safely and fairly. To keep the student-athletes safe, we must have a good understanding of the rules covering equipment. As stated in the introduction to the Equipment rule – only equipment that meets the specifications written in the NCAA Softball Rules may be used in intercollegiate competition.
College softball players may use equipment that bears the trademark or logo of an athletics equipment manufacturer or distributor if it is the normal label or trademark. All equipment should be commonly available to the general public through retailers. If there is a question regarding the availability of any equipment, the umpire shall determine whether it will be allowed in the game.
All equipment should be commonly available to the general public through retailers. If there is a question regarding the availability of any equipment, the umpire shall determine whether it will be allowed in the game.
The exact specifications for the ball (color, weight, COR, maximum compression, and dynamic stiffness) are detailed in the rule book. Unlike the NFHS, USA, USSSA rules, our rule book does not require an authentication mark on the ball. However, most conferences, including the Community College conferences, have requirements for a certification mark. For example, most of the Division 1 conferences state the brand of the game ball must be the same used in the NCAA Division 1 Championships. If the balls being provided do not meet the required specifications, declare a No Contest.
Teams Preparing Game Balls
The host team shall be responsible for providing a minimum of 12 game balls of the same specification and manufacturer. Substances such as Gorilla Gold or Turface may be used for the purpose of rubbing up the game balls prior to being given to the umpires. The prohibition of substances being applied by the participants is only during the game. See the Pitching rule for more detail on this, as well as for ball rotation. Read the article in the Pitching Rules/Regulations section Substances on the Ball.
Play: The umpire crew walked onto the field and noticed the home team players rolling the balls on the dirt in order to remove the manufacturer’s gloss (find the rule which specifies this is the responsibility of the home team). The plate umpire told the coach that it is not allowed to use dirt to break in new game balls as dirt is a foreign substance. He also told the coach that this would be considered defacing the game balls and the consequence, even if the ball is not in the game yet, and he could call an illegal pitch.
Ruling: Wrong! The players were rolling the balls in the dirt. They were not holding the balls in their hands and rubbing them into the dirt with extreme pressure. That would be considered defacing the ball and should be stopped if an umpire sees it.
Most schools do not buy the types of rubbing compounds mentioned above for preparing the balls before the game, so dirt is often used. It is best done before the umpires enter the field, and not in plain view of the umpires because some umpires might do exactly what this coach states this umpire did.
There is a ruling in the official Case Book which discusses the proper way for teams to prepare the game balls. The Locker Room has a direct link to this document so there is no excuse for a CCSUA umpire to not review these interpretations on a regular basis.
In addition to softball bats being used in the on-deck circle (maximum of 2), wooden baseball bats are also permitted. No attachments to a warmup bat are allowed – including sleeves, donuts, and fans. Remove an inappropriate bat or too many bats; warn the player; if it reappears, the on-deck batter will be ejected.
The bat consists of five distinct parts – knob, handle, taper, barrel, and end cap. See the Rule Book for the extensive regulations for game bats. The knob and the grip of the bat has been a discussion point recently. To clarify, the knob may be taped or marked for identification as long as there is not violation of the bat rule. It may be solid or hollowed out to house an embedded metric sensor – see the rule book for more detail. A rubber ring that slips over the knob is permitted as long as its purpose is to absorb vibration to the bottom hand to reduce sting.
Cone and flare style grips on the handle are prohibited as they compromise the intended differentiation between the knob and the handle. The grip may not exceed two layers; if taped, it must be a continuous spiral but need not be a solid layer. So, a diamond style taping or other taping which leaves parts of the handle visible within the 15 inches of the grip are legal.
An inappropriate bat is a bat that is illegal, altered or nonapproved.
• Illegal– does not meet acceptable specifications
• Altered – illegal or nonapproved bat changed to resemble a legal bat or a legal bat intentionally changed from specifications.
• Nonapproved – does not have the required certification mark or is not on the current bat list.
A damaged bat is a legal bat that has burrs, excessive wobble, rattles, cracks for dents. This is usually discovered during the bat check before the game. See the rule book for all the parameters involved with penalizing inappropriate bats.
All players except the catcher must use a leather glove/mitt that meets the specifications listed in the rule book. The catcher may wear a leather glove or leather mitt of any dimension. The use of any treatment or device that fundamentally changes the specifications of the glove renders the equipment altered and unsuitable for play. If the glove can be cleaned and is no longer tacky, the glove may be returned to action. If an umpire notices an illegal glove before a play, have it removed. If a play is made, remove the glove and give the offensive coach the option to take the result of the play or nullify it. If it reappears, eject the offending player.
Required protective equipment
The rule book is specific as to what is required protective equipment and what is optional. See the separate article in this section of the Rules Corner for optional equipment.
Only the offensive players and the catchers must wear protective equipment at the appropriate times. Each offensive player who is an on-deck batter, batter, runner, or a base coach must wear a double-earflap helmet that meets NOCSAE standards. All helmets must be of the same color and must not have a highly reflective, mirror-like chrome finish. Note: a student-athlete base coach does not have to put on the helmet until the ball becomes live to start the half-inning.
Catchers must wear body protectors and softball shin guards that offer protection to at least the foot-to-knee area. A protective helmet with a face mask must be worn while receiving pitches in a game. This helmet has the same prohibition – no highly reflective or mirror-like finish helmets. The ice hockey goalie-style headgear may be worn but it must comply with the NOCSAE combined helmet and mask standard.
The catcher of record, and any offensive player acting as a catcher to take warmup pitches on the field, must wear the helmet. In college, it is highly recommended, but not mandatory, that anyone who receives warmup pitches off the field wear a helmet.
An umpire shall have removed any damaged or illegal helmets; deliberately wearing a helmet improperly or intentionally removing it while the ball is live – call the offender out, live ball, and the force play is still in effect.
Shoes are considered required equipment for players and coaches. The soles may have soft or hard rubber cleats or rectangular metal spikes (not to extend farther than 3/4 inch from the sole). Pitching toes are allowed as long as they are securely fastened and the entire surface of the attachment is in contact with the existing surface of the shoe. Homemade products being attached to the pitchers’ shoes which extend the toe of the shoe are illegal if the entire surface of the attachment is not in contact with the existing surface of the shoe.