There is a new conspiracy theory running wild through the world of college fastpitch softball. Slappers as we have known them are on their death bed. A major rule change has been implemented and it is going to change the game forever.
Beginning this spring, when any part of a hitter’s foot is outside of the batters box they are out if they contact the ball. This is a major change because it used to be that your whole foot had to be outside the box to be called out. So picture the batter’s box lines, now if a hitter has a toe out side the line they are out. In the “good old days” if you still had a quarter of an inch of your heel on the line you were safe.
For slappers everywhere this is a huge change. The first impression was that this was going to be the end of slapping because so many of these players have been trained for so long to push the envelope that umpires would have a field day calling this new rule.
So what happened? The first weekend I saw more slappers called out in a couple games than I had in the 10 previous years combined. It looked like this new point of emphasis was going to lead to a fundamental change. I saw a bunch of tweets from college coaches with the same message:
Slappers, you better learn to hit!
Not so fast, buster! Now a couple weeks later it is clear that we all panicked over nothing. In the several weeks since it appears that the new rule must have been amended or forgotten because it looks a lot like the old days, with almost no slappers being called out for being out of the batter’s box.
What changed? That is up for debate but I think a big part of it lies in the difficulty in having an umpire need to watch a pitch and also the feet of the slapper. It seems that the umpires are focusing more on the pitch again. Now they are still calling the obvious cases, like stepping on the plate, but the borderline call that the new rule is supposed to address has gone away.
Slappers beware, but don’t give up your day job. I think you’re still going to have a role to play.
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.