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Trackman coming to baseball in a bigger way

What was once only found on the driving range of nice golf courses is now in a MLB stadium near you.

Could a pandemic speed up the use of this high tech product? I'm referring to Trackman.

As MLB works its way into the modern technological age, and making an all-important leap into using technology to call balls and strikes. The case for using technology is to remove human fallibility from the equation.

The home plate umpire checks an iPhone while wearing an earpiece – equipment used to relay automated ball and strike calls – prior to the start of an Atlantic League baseball game in 2019. AP Photo/Julio Cortez In summer 2019, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an independent league, experimented with the Trackman system. At the time, Trackman was the newest automated ball-strike technology available. The system works by using a 3D Doppler radar system to track and measure the flight of a baseball. Mapping this data onto the shape of a field, the location of home plate and the dimensions of each player’s strike zone enables the system to call balls and strikes.

MLB used the Atlantic League games, and MLB’s Arizona Fall League games later in the year, to assess and fine-tune the system for eventual use in major and minor league games. The system received mixed reviews for accuracy, speed in making calls and consistent reliability.

Nevertheless, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated that minor league baseball would use automated ball-strike technology if there was 2020 season. MLB does not have a clear timeline of when it plans to introduce ABS technology into major league games. However, when MLB returns to play during the COVID-19 pandemic, robotic umpires might be one of many measures to manage social distancing.

Right now, it doesn’t appear that these new “robo-umps” will fully replace the plate umpire. But, they clearly are on the way and will change what it means to umpire the game. Arguably, this will change the history, tradition and culture of baseball.

More to come...

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