Thursday, 14 November, 2019

Robot umpire aid debuts in minors as MLB watches closely

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Cary Erickson | 13 July, 2019, 14:58

Robots have arrived at home plate, and while they haven't come to Major League Baseball yet, they may very well be the future of baseball.

The Trackman system for calling balls and strikes made its debut on Wednesday (July 10) night during the Atlantic League All-Star game.

The plate umpire wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

Because the system is still in its infancy, an umpire is needed behind home in the event that the system fails to pick up a pitch, registers a pitch totally incorrectly or fails altogether.

White said the system will be implemented leaguewide over the next few weeks. More often than not when a hitter checks his swing, the pitch will be deemed a ball instead of a strike.

That's because the new generation of umps don't have ears or even eyes to call balls and strikes.

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"We have seen a tremendous amount of interest in these initiatives from our players, coaches and fans throughout the first half of the season", Atlantic League president Rick White said in a statement.

Last night in the independent Atlantic League, "robot umpires" took the field for the first time.

MLB's executive vice president of economics and operations Morgan Sword told ESPN it was "an exciting night for Major League Baseball". "We think the Atlantic League is being a pioneer for all of the sport".

"One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire", Sword said. It looks like a ball and TrackMan calls it a strike.

Though the technology is being touted as a robot umpire, the concept doesn't involve a robot at all, the York Daily Record reports.

"We need to see how it works, first in the Atlantic League and then probably other places, meaning other parts of minor league baseball, before it comes to Major League Baseball", Manfred said. Whether you're watching Georgia's Baldwin High School Braves or the Atlanta Braves, there's a noticeable congruity - both games involve the same basic dynamics, the real-life (if unintentional) human drama between player and official. The consensus among players and umpires who have tested it is that Trackman squeezes the corners of the plate where human umpires might not, and grants strikes higher and lower in the zone. Every other decision we have to make will now be magnified.