‘Robot umpires’ debut in independent Atlantic League

Somerset Patriots

On Wednesday night, a "robot" umpire called the Atlantic League All-Star game and it will eventually expand to all eight teams in the league using the system for the remainder of the 2019 season. In March, they announced the first set of rules, including the TrackMan radar system for calling balls and strikes, the ban of the shift and a three-batter minimum for pitchers.

The game between the Liberty Division and Freedom Division all-stars ended in a 3-3 tie.

"One of the thing we consider is how disruptive [rule changes] will be to how the game is played", said Morgan Sword, MLB's senior vice president for league economics and operations, and the main go-between for Manfred's office and the Atlantic League.

He crouched in his normal position behind the catcher and signaled balls and strikes.

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"Some of the pitches they call strikes (now) don't look like strikes". The umpire has the final say on whether a pitch is a ball or a strike and can overrule the system. "What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate, and we're committed to that". A computer in the press box communicated to that device whether the pitch was in or out of the strike zone, and deBrauwere relayed the calls to the field as a normal umpire would. The umpire does have the authority to change the call. Each iteration of the automated strike zone (from Pitch F/X to the new TrackMan software) requires some third party - whether it be a ballpark "stringer" calibrating the zone at the park or something embedded into the software - to make the subjective "prepared to swing" determination. Pitches are also tracked with a Doppler radar screen that is mounted above home plate.

That's because the new generation of umps don't have ears or even eyes to call balls and strikes. "We're in touch with our umpires' union, and this is the first step of the process". 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.

"This is just another plate job and I just get a little help on this one so I feel very relaxed going into this one", he said. It's just different. Every pitch I've thrown (high in the strike zone) has been a ball my whole career, since I was 6 years old until now. According to reports the move came after a recent partnership with the league and Major League Baseball.

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