Dyer Straight: HS baseball keeps it clean at home plate, outlaws catcher collisions

Dyer Straight

By Mike Dyer

“…there are some sanctioning bodies that don’t even allow you to slide into home plate head first.”

Don’t expect to ever see a Pete Rose and Ray Fosse home plate collision on a regular basis aroun high school baseball diamonds in Ohio.

Perhaps the most famou Major League Baseball collision – during the 1970 All-Star Game – it wouldn’t be allowed at today’s high school level.

Cincinnati Elder baseball coach Mark Thompson remembers having a player tossed for making contact with a catcher in his first very first game as the Panthers’ coach 25 years ago.

But, such instances of home plate collisions are rare in the high school game because they aren’t allowed per the rulebook.

Still, Major League Baseball’s recent news of planning to eliminate home plate collisions possibly in 2014 or 2015 underscores how safety of the game is becoming the primary objective of the National Pastime.

And in many ways, the MLB proposal is catching up to high school and college levels, according to Prep Baseball Report Ohio Scouting Director Chris Valentine.

“You have to slide into home plate at the high school level,” Valentine said. “You cannot take out the catcher, come in with your arms up etc. …At the youth and travel levels, there are some sanctioning bodies that don’t even allow you to slide into home plate head first.”

Dyer-ColumnMoeller coach Tim Held said the high school rule is the runner must do everything he can to avoid contact. The catcher cannot set up in the baseline unless the throw is on its way to him. Ejections are possible if the umpire believes the runner tried to make contact by not sliding to the inside or outside of the plate.

“The difficult part of the rule is when the catcher moves to catch a throw that’s a little up the third base line and contact is made,” Thompson said. “Different umpires will have different interpretations.”

Former longtime Mason coach Ken Gray said no one thought much about home plate collisions in high school until the rule arrived that a runner must slide if the catcher has the ball.

“I believe it was the late 1970s or early 80s (when) home plate collisions were supposed to be avoided in high school baseball,” Gray said. “Up to that time I do not believe anyone thought a lot of about the chance of injury; I believe most believed it was just part of the game.”

Gray, who retired after this past spring with a 768-315 record in 39 seasons, said he liked to reach the swipe tag with the catcher going down on his right knee in one motion with the ball and hand in glove tagging the runner on the ground at the same time.

Gray knows the home plate collision has ended careers throughout the years at various levels and that is not desirable.

“With players at all levels being bigger, faster, stronger – anything that improves the safety of the game is obviously a good thing,” Gray said. “If we can prevent injuries (it is the) prudent thing to do.”

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Mike Dyer is the Cincinnati Enquirer high school sports editor. Follow his Recruiting Trail blog on Cincinnati.com/preps and on Twitter @MikeDyer

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