For over a century, baseball players have fingered pitches, but this could soon become a thing of the past in the big leagues. Major League Baseball has approved the use of a system that will allow receivers to send directions to their pitchers electronically.
The PitchCom system focuses on sleeve wear on the forearm. They can press buttons to identify the field type and location. The pitcher hears the call through a bone conduction listening device. Channels are encrypted and teams can program code words to replace terms like “fastball” or “curveball”.
According to Associated Press, MLB provides each team with three transmitters, 10 receivers and a charging case for the system, which works in Spanish and English. Teams can use one transmitter and up to five receivers at any one time. Along with receivers and launchers, three other defenders can use a receiver, which is hidden inside the hood. The devices can only be used on the pitch during matches, not in clubhouses, bullpens or benches.
PitchCom is optional and teams can still use traditional hand signals if they wish. About half of the MLB teams are said to have expressed interest in using PitchCom. Some players have tested the system during spring training and it has been widely well received, like ESPN relationships.
“I think it can come in handy when it comes in August, September and October and you’re pushing into the playoffs, with all the scouts in the stands and their eyes on you trying to decipher what you’re throwing,” the Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. “It will be nice not to have to go through different sets of signals.”
The technology could help teams ward off the threat of their opponents stealing signs, a problem that has been looming over the sport in recent years. The Houston Astros were sadly caught stealing signs using a camera and monitor during the 2017 World Series title race. The teams were even accused of using fitness trackers to report calls to the opponent’s receiver’s field. Widespread adoption of PitchCom could eliminate such cheating attempts and help speed up games.
Meanwhile, the creators of PitchCom are working on a version of the system that will provide visual indicators of presentation calls. It should be available next year.
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