The MLB says receivers could use a new electronic signal system to call fields this season

The MLB says receivers could use a new electronic signal system to call fields this season

The Major League Baseball-approved electronic field call system is on display in New York on Tuesday. In an effort to eliminate signal theft, Major League Baseball says receivers could use a new electronic signal system to call fields this season. Ron Blum / Associated Press

NEW YORK – In a move that ends a tradition that stretches back more than 150 years, Major League Baseball has approved the use of an electronic device for receivers to signal pitches in an effort to eliminate sign theft and games of speed.

Since baseball’s inception in the 19th century, catchers had used their fingers to signal the type of pitch and intended location.

With the rise of video in baseball fields in the 21st century, so did the theft of signs and concerns about how teams were trying to get the signals flowing. The Houston Astros were penalized for using a camera and slamming a garbage can to alert hitters of pitch types during the 2017 World Series title race.

“It basically eliminates all the need to create a signage system for a receiver to give signals,” said Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, on Tuesday. “You literally press a button and it transmits the call to the launcher. And what we’ve seen so far, it really improves the pace of play. “

Some teams tried the system during spring training, with Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa and New York Yankees’ Aaron Boone among those who said they liked what they saw.

Yankees receiver Kyle Higashioka used it a couple of times this spring training, including Tuesday with pitcher Michael King against Detroit in the latest New York exhibition game.

“There are still some things we need to work on, but I want to say that fail safe is always just giving signals. So, it’s always there when we need it. We’re just fixing all the kinks right now. If we encounter obstacles in the game, we can always give signals. I’m not too worried it’s confusing, “she said.

“I like it. At first I gave King signals today because I didn’t have a chance to talk to him about it, so I started to mess it up. So I decided to give some signals and it worked out well.

MLB provides each team with three transmitters, 10 receivers and a charging case for the PitchCom Pitcher Catcher communication device. It is available in English and Spanish.

“A maximum of five receivers and one transmitter can be used at any one time,” MLB wrote in a five-page memorandum Tuesday to general managers, assistant GMs, managers and equipment managers, a copy of which was obtained from The Associated. To press.

A receiver has nine choices on its bracelet device: “four stitching top inside, center curve, slider top outside, center change inside, platen center, center cutter out, divider bottom inside, knuckles in the center, two seams at the bottom outside “.

A thin band hidden inside a hood allows you to hear audio at an adjustable level, designed for use by pitchers, second baseman, shortstop and center backs.

“When changing pitchers, the manager must provide a receiver to the replacement pitcher,” the memo said.

Receivers and transmitters can only be used in the field and cannot be operated during matches in clubhouses, benches or bullpens.

“The signals communicated via PitchCom can only be given by the receiver in the game. Signals cannot be sent from the bench, the bullpen, another player on the field or anywhere else, “the note reads.” Clubs are responsible for their PitchCom devices. To any club that loses a transmitter or receiver a replacement fee of $ 5,000 per unit will be charged. “

Marinak said about half of MLB’s 30 clubs had expressed interest.

“I’m not sure every team will use it,” Marinak said during MLB’s third annual fan engagement and innovation showcase. “I think this is kind of a personal preference.”

Union chief Tony Clark stressed that devices are not mandatory.

“It was important to ensure the flexibility for players to use – or not use – the technology at their discretion,” the former All-Star first baseman said in a statement. “The guys on the pitch are in the best position to make individual decisions about whether it’s right for them.”

Players are no longer able to watch game video replays on clubhouse TVs, but can only review video on iPads controlled by the MLB office. The video will only update at the end of each half inning, and players will be able to go back and play it, but may not see the content during an ongoing half inning.

“Gamers do not have access to any technology that is above and beyond what we are offering in terms of in-game video,” Marinak said. “We also monitor all traffic transmission to understand what content is being delivered to the iPad.”

The new system of referees with microphones to explain video reviews to fans began with an exhibition match at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. MLB is also now shooting video from 104 of the 120 minor league baseball fields.

The automated ball / strike system of computerized referees will be used in 10 parks in Triple-A West, Charlotte in Triple-A East and Low-A Southeast. MLB intends to illustrate the calls on the stadium scoreboards.

Field clocks will be used in all minor league stadiums, likely a prelude to their installation in major league stadiums by 2023.

MLB showed off its new 1,400-square-foot replay operations center in Midtown Manhattan, which opened just as COVID-19 struck in 2020 and replaced a 900-square-foot facility in SoHo that had been in use since 2014. .

There are 90 46-inch professional monitors and 60 24-inch touchscreen monitors in the 31 x 29-foot room, with three desks with six screens behind for supervisors and administrators, then two more rows with technicians.

According to Chris Zagorski, vice president of operations and playback technology, MLB shoots 18 cameras from each baseball field that show 60 frames per second plus up to four high-speed cameras at speeds of 360-480 frames per second.

There is a backup breeding center in San Francisco, in case of a power outage in New York. For special event games such as in Dyersville, Iowa, Williamsport, Pennsylvania and London, an on-site arcade is set up.

Marinak said fans using the MLB Ballpark app to enter stadiums with e-tickets went from 3% in 2017 to 19% in 2019 to 56% in 2021.

The MLB also said the first helmet advertisements will begin appearing during post-season 2022. Players agreed last month to advertise uniforms and helmets, and jersey advertisements won’t start until at least 2023.

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