2016 USSSA Conference Convention questions/answers:
This was an open meeting where the answers I wrote were from Don, the umpires, Elliot, Directors, and many people in the audience who were from the conference or new to the conference. For instance the answer to question #1 is 2 or 3 different people. the answer to #2 is 4 different people giving their opinion. Most all of the answers are 2 or more people giving their opinion.
Notable: In the 2017 USSSA Major World Series will be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports again. Also ‘A’ and ‘AA’ Worlds will be in Kissimmee as well. 2018 will begin USSSA’s first season at Viera, Florida and its turf fields although there could be some events held in Viera. There were probably around 90+ conference directors, umpires, sponsors, managers, and players at the meeting.
1) What is the plan of action going forward to find a bat and ball combination that is both safe for pitchers and infielders and is entertaining as well?
Answer: Stadium ball has always been used for baseball fields and the Conference Classic M has been used for non baseball fields. That will continue. The Classic M is a very temperature sensitive ball and we had a cool spring start to the 2016 season causing higher than normal scores and batted ball speeds. Dudley was also inconsistent in producing the balls with a consistent compression.
2) Will the batter’s box be enforced in the Conference?
Answer: Batters boxes are not chalked to the correct size as per the rule book. Standing up in the box provides no advantage. Umpires have a lot of responsibilities so seeing whether a batter is 1 or 2 inches completely outside the box on contact is not easy to judge.
3) Should USSSA still give the 18th spot for the Major World Series to the Military Champion?
Answer: The military is the reason we are able to play and enjoy the game of softball and have the freedoms that we have. The 18th spot will continue to go to the military world champion unless they opt to go to the USSSA ‘AA’ World instead. If they choose to go to the AA World then the 17th spot would go to the 17th team in points and the 18th spot will go to the Conference Qualifier winner.
4) Will 'B' teams be allowed to be in the Conference?
Answer: Yes, although a Conference ‘B’ team will be closely evaluated to make sure they are correctly classified and will be strongly encouraged to play ‘A’ in their second season if not before. This is because Conference 'B' teams quickly learn what they need to compete and usually make roster adjustments.
5) Why did USSSA say at the Major World Series they would be cutting open bats for the top four teams and then not follow through?
Answer: This was a matter of miscommunication with the manufacturers who pushed back against bats being cut open that didn’t fail compression. So the procedures were altered to retest all of the final 4 teams and cut open any bats that failed after each teams last game. All bats for the Major World Series that failed or broke were cut open. In 2017 the bat procedures for the Major and the season will be put in writing to start the season.
6) Should the 2nd tournament of the Florida and Seattle duals be a blind draw at the managers meeting?
Answer: No. USSSA always seeds tournaments for better competition and to protect sponsors.
7) With so many players changing teams how do we clarify what team/sponsor has points to start 2017?
Answer: The top 4 will be seeded on 2016 points and then DW will spend some time figuring out the seeding for the top 20 based on Classification, previous seasons finish, and the roster strength. This is because there are so many teams/sponsors that do not have the minimum 6 players coming back to their team in 2017.
8) Should a pinch runner be allowed for the pitcher so they can get their gear on?
Answer: No. Only the umpires liked this rule, as they felt it would save time. Players, sponsors, and directors did not like this idea.
9) Will Major players continue to get special treatment on the strike zone, cursing, and disrespecting the conference umpires?
Answer: With regards to the strike zone the answer was that the strike zone changes between umpires but does not change based on the classification of the player. Cursing and disrespecting umpires is something that everyone agreed is much better than in the “old days” but there could be room for improvement and consistency with this.
10) Will all bats cut open at the bat inspections be replaced in a reasonable time?
Answer: Yes. There is a new streamlined process which is the result of a 2016 season where this was new to the directors, manufacturers, and players and the kinks were worked out. This process worked during towards the end of the season and will be implemented going forward and explained again at the Hall of Fame Classic managers meeting.
11) When will USSSA hold world tournaments in another state other than Florida?
Answer: USSSA is moving into a new facility in Viera, Florida in 2017 where World tournaments will be easier and cheaper to host in 2018 and beyond. Upper level teams in the conference also benefit with hotel room nights in Florida where they would not recieve that benefit in other parts of the country. Also the new Viera complex will have artificial turf fields to help minimize rain delays. The 2017 Major World Series will be at Disney and A and AA world tournaments are scheduled for Kissimmee, Florida. 2018 tournaments will be moved to the new complex in Viera.
12) We skipped a question about the strike zone that was answered earlier.
13) Should all teams in Conference games hit the same amount of home runs?
Answer: Participants felt the 2016 move to 12 HR for all games except Major vs Major which is 16 HR was a good move and will be used again in 2017. Giving the Major vs Major games 16 HR helps with safety in games that are usually longer and higher scoring where the number of Major players on each team far exceeds the number of Major players on non-Major teams.
14) Should there only be one Conference tournament per weekend?
Answer: No. Having a limit on the number of Conference events in a weekend would shut down one side of the country or another. Past changes to the Conference schedule have not resulted in any increase in West Coast teams so this change probably would not either was the thinking.
15) Will the compression number be raised this year for the bat testing or will it stay the same as previous years?
Answer: No. The current compression number is based upon the BPF (Bat Performance Factor) that was put in place many years ago and you can't change due to legal issues with the manufacturers.
16) Will seeding for World tournaments go by conference points or USSSA points? Is the seeding for World tournaments listed in the rules or USSSA.com?
Answer: This is still being discussed. ‘B’ Worlds and higher seeding will be based on Conference points first. ‘C’ Worlds may be as well. There is still a discussion around whether non-conference teams will earn Conference points in the same allocation as Conference teams do and whether ‘C’ Worlds will be based off of Conference points even if there are no Conference ‘C’ teams in the league. The consensus was that ‘C’ teams playing Conference tournaments are playing better competition when the Conference comes to town and deserve better seeding.
17) Can the AA World be started on Saturday afternoon or early evening and finish and Sunday evening?
Answer: All in attendance including the ‘AA’ teams agreed that starting the ‘AA’ Worlds on Saturday afternoon or early evening and finishing Sunday night was the best scenario so that ‘AA’ teams that also qualified for the Major World Series would use less total vacation days to stay for both. It was mentioned that winner’s bracket teams would play 2 games on Saturday evening.
18) Can the Conference banquet be on the Tuesday before the Major instead of Labor Day Weekend?
Answer: It was determined that having the banquet on the Tuesday before the Major would take away from the Major World Series and it will remain on the Conference Championship weekend.
19) With teams declaring Michigan on their schedule and then dropping out every year, can Michigan be a set point value every year?
Answer: The team list as of 14 days prior to the Michigan Last Chance Major will be the amount of Conference teams used for points but there will not be a “set point value”.
20) Why don't we use the safety bag at first base in the Conference?
Answer: If the park has the equipment for the safety bag it can be used. Seattle Major for example uses the safety bag at their Dual Major which incidentally will be unlimited homer’s this year!
21) Should we get rid of the no throw downs rule between inning? What’s the difference when batters take 2 min to get in the box anyway…
Answer: Umpires were unanimous in saying that the “no throw down” rule saves time which adds up over the course of a Conference tournament. They also said a point of emphasis this year will be getting that first batter of each new inning into the box to start play.
22) Should the teams pick their own year ending All Conference and 2nd team player awards?
23) Why is it that the points leader (#1 seed) at the end of the regular season gets the league MVP of the conference when it should be open to top 5 team’s players?
Answer: The player award system was set up by the great Hank Bassett in 2006 and will continue to be adhered to. Meaning 1stteam awards can only go to players whose teams are in the top 8 in the point standings. Teams 9-16 in the standings can only receive 2nd team all conference awards. The 1st place team gets the MVP although a co-MVP can come from another team lower in the standings. Although teams don’t pick their teams awards, their manager can contact USSSA to suggest who deserves the awards that their team gets and those suggestions would be taken into consideration.