The national rules committee for high school softball is moving pitchers a few steps further from home plate. Effective for school year 2010-11, the pitching rubber must be 43 feet from home – three feet further.
The rationale is to put more balls in play and to get more defense involved. Schools in Florida and Oregon have conducted experiments with the 43-foot distance during the past two seasons; and coaches have reacted positively to the greater distance.
After more than a decade of discussion and nearly unanimous opposition year after year, the change passed the national rules committee in June. At least two states, including Michigan, requested that the change not be imposed on the high school game at this time. Several concerns were cited, including that the facilities used for the high school game are also used for other levels of softball that retain the 40-foot distance.
Although a 43 foot pitching distance at the high school varsity level may have merit and create more balance between offense and defense, concerns remain about the longer distance for subvarsity and junior high/middle school programs that must be addressed.
The Amateur Softball Association uses the 43-foot distance for competitions involving players over 18 years of age. The distance is currently 40 feet for 16 to 18-year-olds competition; but the ASA has a vote scheduled in November that could change that for 2010. Colleges utilize the 43-foot distance.
The MHSAA Baseball/Softball Committee will review the change in January and should it recommend that the national change not be imposed in Michigan in 2011, that recommendation will be considered by the MHSAA Representative Council in May.