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Pitch tracker to call balls/strikes at Pacifics game

San Rafael PacificsThis is a first in professional baseball: the San Rafael Pacifics (independent; Pacific Association) will use a pitch-tracking system to call balls and strikes during a two-game series next week.

There will not be a human umpire behind the plate. Instead, the tracking system from Sportvision will determine the balls and strikes on July 28 and 29 as part of the Pacifics’ second annual Pat Tillman Foundation Nights at the ballpark. Former Oakland Athletic and current MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes will serve as the Strike Zone Umpire, relaying the computerized balls and strikes calls to the players and fans. Byrnes, who played 11 MLB seasons, has long been a proponent for an automated strike zone.

Byrnes will donate to the Pat Tillman Foundation based on performance of the automated strike zone, giving $100 for every walk and strikeout over the two games played at historic Albert Park. Byrnes will also donate $10,000 if he ejects any player or manager for arguing balls and strikes. The Pacifics will donate $1 for every ticket sold over the two games and auction off Byrnes’s game-worn umpire jerseys with all proceeds going to the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“Pat lived his life as a forward thinking man and I feel like the automated strike zone is a fitting way to honor his memory,” Byrnes said. “Last year’s tribute to Pat was a huge success.  Making history in his name is just another way to teach the next generation about who Pat Tillman was, what he stood for, and the incredible sacrifices he made.”

Tillman was an all-star safety for the Arizona Cardinals and a star at Arizona State University before putting his NFL career on hold to serve in the Armed Forces. While in service, Tillman suffered a tragic death via fratricide. The Pat Tillman Foundation provides educational scholarships to military veterans. Since 2004, the Foundation has donated over $6 Million in scholarship support to nearly 350 scholars at almost 100 different universities.

“This is an incredible opportunity for baseball as a whole,” said Pacifics Assistant General Manager Vinnie Longo. “This will give professional baseball the chance to debut an automated umpire and it will provide an opportunity to add jobs for umpires in the form of a review official, who will not only call the balls and strikes but can provide on-site reviews of challenged calls. The fact that we are able to honor Pat Tillman’s forward thinking initiative at the same time only makes it a more special and historic moment.”

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