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Volume 26 No. 50
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Examination Of Robotic Atlantic League Umpire Yields Few Mistakes

The digitally rendered strike zone was "barely noticeable" save for "pronounced consternation over one pitch" during the Atlantic League All-Star Game robotic umpire test this week, according to Jacob Bogage of the WASHINGTON POST. As Lancaster Barnstormers DH Joey Terdoslavich discussed the "markedly low pitch" with umpire Brian deBrauwere, the ump "pointed to his earpiece," where the robotic system relayed its calls. DeBrauwere said, "It's uncharted territory. I just want these guys to know that's what the system called." Terdoslavich said, "If that was the one blunder, I didn't really hear any complaints from anyone." Bogage notes for several pitches early in the game, deBrauwere's earpiece "lost connection to the iPhone in his pocket, though the technology quickly recovered." He said that the system then "cut out entirely for half of the fourth inning." Between half innings, an MLB official "seated by the third base dugout fiddled with the iPhone so the earpiece regained connection." During those periods, deBrauwere "called balls and strikes as if it were a normal game." Despite these early hiccups, Atlantic League players, managers and umpires have been "quick to endorse the system in the name of consistency, even if the long-established boundaries of the strike zone change because of technology" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/12).

ROBOT REACTIONS: ESPN's Eduardo Perez said, "I like the umpire being back there, because there is still a couple holes. If it bounces and it's called, it can still be called a strike." Karl Ravech added, "Computers sometimes ... have a glitch." Tim Kurkjian said, "I’m for doing all of these things in a league like this to see if they work, and just as important if they don’t work. ... Let’s try all of these to see if they work." Perez: "I like that they’re doing it in an independent league and that they’re opening it up to test it out. They’re getting that technology, it’s there -- let’s check it out. I’m all in on that aspect of it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be coming near any ballpark at the major league level." Ravech: "You can kind of hear the train, though, rumbling a little bit" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 7/11).