Jewelry can now be worn in prep baseball and softball
By Steve Williams
Baseball and softball diamonds are sparkling a little more this season on the high school level.
For the first time in over 50 years, the rule book says players and coaches are allowed to wear jewelry.
In the past, jewelry could only be worn for medical and religious reasons.
“The game of baseball has evolved and players have demonstrated that wearing a bracelet or necklace does not impede their ability to play or increase any risk to themselves or their opponents,” said Elliot Hopkins, the National Federation of High School Associations’ director of sports and liaison to the Baseball Rules Committee, when the new rule was announced.
The NFHS has also given umpires the authority to remove excessive jewelry in a game.
This reporter checked with baseball and softball head coaches in Knox County last week to get their reaction to the rule change.
“Doesn’t bother me, I don’t mind it,” said Matt Buckner, Farragut’s baseball coach.
“Not a bother to me!” echoed Coach Brandon Roberts of Central. “I never have seen jewelry cause an injury in a professional game and they wear some pretty flashy things. It’s one less thing to worry about as a coach!”
Halls Coach Doug Polston said: “I have no problem with the rule if they enforce it and not let dangling jewelry be worn.”
“I’m fine with it,” said CAK’s Tommy Pharr. “I think there are a lot bigger issues in our sport and sports in general than a kid wearing a necklace.”
As far as the softball coaches, Gibbs Coach Carol Mitchell said: “I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve wondered why it hasn’t been changed sooner.”
“I like the new ruling, less for coaches and umpires to have to police and we both have enough responsibilities as it is,” said Nick Green of Farragut.
“It honestly is a relief for me,” said Carter Coach Ryan Burkhart. “I’m all for it within reason. As long as they aren’t wearing dangling stuff, it’s less of a hassle.”
“As a coach, the new rule doesn’t affect what we do in our profession,” pointed out Grace Christian Coach Dewayne Hunt. “It doesn’t take away from the quality of softball that our local high schools play in our area.
“College and travel ball have allowed this rule and most high school young ladies are used to knowing how to play with jewelry and it not be a problem. So far, our umpire association has been really good with the rule.”
Baseball and softball coaches also were asked how their players had reacted to the new jewelry rule.
Karns’ baseball team apparently likes the new rule. In one game, four straight Beavers came to the plate wearing a necklace. Fulton’s Falcons have been wearing a lot of jewelry and colorful wrist bands, said Coach Buzz McNish.
“Most of our guys wear a necklace,” said Farragut’s Buckner, “and I have no safety concerns at all.”
Central’s Coach Roberts said the new rule “has taken away the unnecessary game stoppages to remove wristbands. We don’t have any players that are close to being excessive with jewelry. I think the new rule has allowed the umpires to focus more on calling the game to the best of their ability instead of being focused on apparel and uniform violations.
“Our coaches do not wear jewelry, just a watch which has always been allowed,” added Roberts. “And I am comfortable with the safety aspect of the new rule.”
“No noticeable difference in any of us,” replied Coach Polston at Halls. “The new rule is a non-issue with my kids.”
CAK’s Coach Pharr added: “My jewelry has been the same for my career, a watch and wedding band. Our guys haven’t really talked about it. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal that I have seen. I’m comfortable with the safety. I’m not sure what the safety issue was or is.”
When asked about her softball players’ reaction to the new jewelry rule, Gibbs’ Mitchell said: “Actually, none of them have mentioned it nor have I. Honestly, I don’t even notice if they have jewelry on or not.”
Farragut’s Coach Green said: “I do have standards and limitations on size and type of jewelry. Ear rings and nose rings are studs or small hoops only, no Mr. T starter set necklaces, bracelets are ok; but I tell and warn them not to wear anything special because it might break or get lost and we are not stopping the game to look for lost or broken jewelry.”
“I think the girls really appreciate the rule change and have been good about not wearing jewelry that endangers them,” said Carter’s Burkhart. “I personally do not wear jewelry in general, except my wedding ring, so it really doesn’t impact me.”
Coach Hunt at GCA summed up: “The young ladies are use to wearing jewelry to school and some still take it off even for games. Others have had no issues with any types of jewelry that would give an umpire the right to ask them to remove it. As for coaches, I’m not sure we ever gave it a thought to wear or not wear jewelry.”
OTHER SPORTS: Gene Menees of the TSSAA said in addition to baseball and softball, track athletes can wear jewelry; but in soccer, jewelry can only be worn for medical or religious reasons and must be covered.