A California independent league will take part of the human element out of baseball when it uses a computer to call balls and strikes starting with a game on Tuesday night.
The San Rafael Pacifics, of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, will use the automated technology in two games Tuesday and Wednesday against the Vallejo Admirals at their home stadium. A regular umpiring crew will be on hand to make other calls that do not relate to the strike zone.
Pitchf/x will use three cameras to record the location and trajectory of each pitch as it crosses the plate.
The same technology has been used by Major League Baseball television broadcasts to show viewers whether a pitch is a ball or strike. It is currently installed in every MLB stadium and is used primarily for analysis and evaluation purposes.
Former major league player Eric Byrnes will be the “strike-zone umpire.” He will oversee the computer and use a microphone to call out the balls and strikes to the teams and fans. He plans on donating $100 to the Pat Tillman Foundation for every walk and strikeout during both games and will donate $10,000 if he ejects a player for arguing calls.
“I have been pushing for a computerized strike zone for years,” Byrnes said to the Associated Press. “Just like instant replay was, it is long overdue. Very much looking forward to seeing how the entire process unfolds. I truly believe we are very close to seeing it implemented in the big leagues, just a matter of time.”
Though Byrnes is confident that the technology will make its way to the Major Leagues eventually, others are not so sure.
“I think we are a ways away from...using technology to call balls and strikes. I really do,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said to the AP. “It's because of speed. It's because of technology limitations. It's because quite frankly, the strike zone is different for every single guy.”
“I have a hard time seeing that ever happen,” Toronto manager John Gibbons added. “It'll give somebody a wild idea, though. I guess nobody ever figured they'd see replay, so who knows.”
- Scooby Axson