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NFCA Convention 2018: Wednesday Kickoff in Chicago Highlighted by “Pre-Game Chatter," Holly Rowe Speech

NCAA Softball Secretary-Rules Editor Vickie Van Kleeck moderates the Pre-Game Chatter rules session. Photo: NFCA.

The NFCA Convention began in earnest on Wednesday in Chicago and will run through Saturday.

*** Be sure to check out our “primer” article: 2018 NFCA Convention: 10 Things to Know, Note & Not To Miss!

Here’s a short video recap narrated by NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman on some of the sights and sounds from Day 1.

Wednesday was highlighted by the Pre-Game Chatter session--which had some healthy, helpful and heated conversation around rules of the game--and the Keynote speech by ESPN’s Holly Rowe.

Both are duly noted by Justin McLeod of Justin’s World of Softball who shares with us his report…

*****

More than 1,600 people from all across the softball industry began to gather in Chicago on Wednesday for the annual National Fastpitch Coaches Association convention.

Coaches from every level of the game - from high school and travel ball up to Division I and pro ball - are in attendance, as well as representatives from many of the game’s top retailers and exhibitors and professional and international players.

The Convention kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, with the newly-monikered Pre-Game Chatter session serving as the “official” starter event for the week’s itinerary. NFCA President and Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly moderated the event.

The NFCA Board of Directors includes representatives from each individual level of the game, and each of these representatives presented to the group the highlights and hot topics to be discussed in each division’s individual Caucus that will take place throughout the Convention week.

A few notes from those presentations:

  • The new transfer portal remains a hot topic following an offseason that has seen headlines dominated by high-profile transfers across the nation. This was one item that was high on the agenda for the Division I caucus.
  • The same transfer portal is being discussed this week at levels other than Division I. The portal and its trickle-down impact were discussed as part of the Division II agenda and were mentioned in other caucus previews.
  • Division I representative Kerri Blaylock, the head coach at Southern Illinois, also noted that the possibility of adding a fourth paid coach is on the D1 agenda, as well. This new potential rule has already been proposed and supported by the SEC.

A question-and-answer session was held for any attending coaches to get clarification on the agenda items from their respective division's representative.

Responding to a ​question from Liberty head coach Dot Richardson, Blaylock noted that there is currently an NCAA proposal that would prohibit a player from playing fall ball for one team, then requesting a transfer and playing the spring season for her new team. Under the proposal, the player would have to sit out the spring season.

NCAA National Coordinator of Umpires Craig Hyde and Secretary Rules-Editor Vickie Van Kleeck also addressed the crowd with new points of emphasis and rule updates and interpretations for the 2019 season.

The Q&A did not begin until Van Kleeck's time at the mic, but included both Hyde and Van Kleeck in a nearly 40-minute discussion.

A few headlines from that portion of the session:

  • Van Kleeck noted an example of a play where a catcher is obstructing a base runner, and the base runner elects to cause a collision and bowl over the catcher. In such a situation, according to the secretary rules-editor, the collision would take precedence over the obstruction and the runner would be out. This issue caused some spirited debate from UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, who confronted Van Kleeck, and later Hyde, over the point of when the catcher would be considered to be ‘obstructing.’
  • Responding to a question from Hardin-Simmons head coach Chanin Naudin, Van Kleeck clarified that the much-maligned 'out-of-the-box' rule, which states that a batter who steps out of the batter's box before the ball is put into play is out, goes into effect only once the batter steps across the outside of the chalk line of the batter's box. Naudin noted that this has been inconsistently enforced, with some umpires considering the chalk line itself to be 'out of the box'. Van Kleeck noted the rule's current phrasing and noted that she would issue a clarification on the exacts of the rule.
  • Instant replay will be used in the 2019 SEC Tournament. Van Kleeck noted that this would be a good test case into how the introduction of instant replay in softball might go on a more widespread basis.

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe, widely popular in softball circles thanks to her longtime, well-documented love for the sport, was the keynote speaker for the evening session of the convention's opening day.

Holly Rowe was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the NFCA Convention in Chicago. Photo: NFCA.

Rowe presented an inspiring talk that was engaging; witty; and, at times, tear-jerking, as she discussed her love for softball and sports in general, and how that love played a large role in her fight against cancer.

*** Read more on her speech in the NFCA article: Holly Rowe Knocks It Out Of The Park To Kick Off 2018 National Convention

Rowe also shared the news that her last scans were completely clear, a note that drew resounding applause from the crowd in attendance.

ESPN producer Meg Aronowitz, herself a well-documented softball lover, and commentator Michele Smith, both close friends of Rowe, attended the event to support Rowe during her speech.

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