Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Computer Calls Balls, Strikes

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Computer Calls Balls, Strikes

Article excerpt

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - No blaming or booing the umpire for a questionable called third strike this week in a Northern California independent league. The human element that many in baseball appreciate will be absent during an experiment for a pair of games. A computer will call balls and strikes as the home plate umpire handles all of his other regular duties.

"It's going to be strange yelling at that computer, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy joked.

On Tuesday night, the computer system will stand in for pitch calls in what is considered to be the first professional game without the umpire making those decisions. A full umpiring crew will be there for everything else.

Former outfielder Eric Byrnes will oversee the computer.

"I have been pushing for a computerized strike zone for years, Byrnes said. "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.

The San Rafael Pacifics will use the automated technology in two games against the Vallejo Admirals at Albert Field. The program, Pitchf/x, comes from the company Sportvision in nearby Fremont, offering technology to track and digitally record the full trajectory of live pitches within an inch of accuracy.

"Personally, I have some empathy for those guys back there. It's not easy to track a 100 mph baseball less than a quarter of an inch, Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey said. "That's tough on the human eye. I'm prone to have a little more grace. The one thing you hope for is for consistency.

The technology features three cameras that record the velocity, trajectory and location of every pitch to determine how closely each pitcher comes to hitting the catcher's target.

Not that this will necessarily reach the major leagues any time soon - if ever - despite Byrnes' efforts and energy.

"I have a hard time seeing that ever happen, Toronto manager John Gibbons said. …

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