When the Somerset Patriots hosted the High Point Rockers last Thursday, it marked the independent Atlantic League‘s first test of a Trackman system to assist home plate umpires.
Prior to this season, the Atlantic League struck a three-year agreement with Major League Baseball to effectively serve as a testing ground for various rule and equipment changes being explored by MLB. Among the most high-profile of those measures is Trackman-assisted umpiring, which will eventually lead to the radar system’s use to guide home plate umpires in calling balls and strikes during all Atlantic League games .
A full implementation of this system will not take place until later this season, but the Atlantic League did put it through a test run last Thursday, when the Patriots and Rockers played a doubleheader at TD Bank Ballpark. As part of the in-game testing process, umpires were told to call the strike zone as they normally would and a rotation was implemented so that all four umpires would have a chance to work with the system. Those measures were intended to allow umpires to focus more on becoming acquainted with the logistics of the system before it goes fully into effect, and overall Atlantic League officials were pleased with how the process unfolded. More from MyCentralJersey.com:
Regardless, the testing seemingly went well — Patriots manager Brett Jodie served as the inaugural “test pitcher” during a pre-game session, with umpire Calvin Baker behind the plate with a headset and transponder so that the audio from the Trackman system, the software for which had been set up in the press box, could be relayed to him so that he could make the corresponding call.
“I think we made a couple decisions on the fly that were really good, and I think we learned a lot along the way,” Atlantic League president Rick White said.
“The thing that was really good was, while we were watching on the field, the other members of the crew were up here watching and listening, and that helped to familiarize them with what to expect.”…
The delay from the pitch crossing the strike zone to the information being relayed to the umpire was 100 milliseconds, or in layman’s terms, a tenth of a second. For the most part, although there were certainly very notable exceptions as the game wore on and umpires appeared to be influenced by what they were hearing in their ear despite instructions to call “their” zone, the integration of the Trackman zone was seamless, which had been a concern amongst the umpires.
Initially the Trackman system was to be involved in calling balls and strikes starting on Opening Day, but its delay until later in the year was among the changes announced by MLB and the Atlantic League last month. In addition, it was announced that plans to move the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate back by 24 inches would be delayed until the second half of 2020 after previously being slated for the second half of this season.
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