Changes in FHSAA baseball spark local backlash

COTTONDALE, Fla. (WMBB) – A new proposal from the FHSAA to change baseball’s playoff format and move the regular season forward could cause concern for coaches and teams across the Panhandle.

The proposal calls for a playoff format with a best-of-three series between the teams instead of a simple elimination game, a change that most local coaches support.

However, to extend the playoffs, the regular season would have to start more than a week earlier and end two weeks earlier than last spring.

Teams were only informed of the potential date change this summer, and some Panhandle coaches have already started drawing up their 2025 schedule, but that's not the main reason for their concern.

The baseball season now overlaps even more with winter sports such as basketball and football, so some athletes who play both sports and whose teams make the playoffs are unable to join their baseball team until midway through the regular season.

This might not cause much disruption at some larger high schools, but Skylar Davis, head coach of Cottondale's baseball team, said it could force his athletes who play both sports to choose between one sport or the other.

“You know, here we have guys that play all three sports (football, basketball, baseball), several guys,” Davis said. “It's tough when you're missing one or two starters, and in a sport like this at school. At a big school, you can just sub somebody in and go, but here everything is built around a small core. There's not a huge group of kids to choose from.”

Another concern related to the scheduling changes that Coach Davis pointed out is the safety factor for pitchers who join the team late.

The FHSAA's proposal calls for moving arm care conditioning to Jan. 6. However, if pitchers are busy playing another sport, they could miss up to two full months of preparation time.

Davis struggled with this problem last season with a starting pitcher in basketball. He said further overlap between the two sports' seasons could put coaches in a situation where they would have to increase the number of throws a player makes at an unsafe pace.

“A kid is missing out on the opportunity to build up his arm to be able to hit 105,” Davis said. “Last year, one of my boys hit 105 for the first time the week after spring break, and now that they're quitting basketball a week later, that would be probably the first week of April. You see kids who aren't being prepared to hit 105 confidently until the district tournaments.”

This proposal has not yet been adopted by the FHSAA and is scheduled to be voted on in September.