Atlantic League Debuts 'Robot Umpires' at 2019 All-Star Game

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IIIJuly 11, 2019

Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere, left, huddles behind Freedom Division catcher James Skelton, of the York Revolution, as the official wears an earpiece during the first inning of the Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in York, Pa. deBrauwere wore the earpiece connected to an iPhone in his ball bag which relayed ball and strike calls upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar. The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional baseball league to let the computer call balls and strikes during the all star game. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Atlantic League nudged America's past time another step closer to modernization with the introduction of robots Wednesday night. During the Atlantic League's All-Star Game in York, Pennsylvania, the plate umpire wore an earpiece to allow computer technology to relay whether to call balls or strikes:

This is the first time an American professional baseball league has used technology in order to call balls and strikes, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

"Until we can trust this system 100 percent, I still have to go back there with the intention of getting a pitch correct because if the system fails, it doesn't pick a pitch up or if it registers a pitch that's a foot-and-a-half off the plate as a strike, I have to be prepared to correct that," plate umpire Brian deBrauwere said, per ESPN's report.

MLB's executive vice president of economics and operations Morgan Sword added that it was "an exciting night for MLB."

"One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire," Sword said. "In fact, we're trying empower the umpire with technology. The home plate umpire has a lot more to do than call balls and strikes and he's going to be asked to do all of that. We're in touch with our umpires' union and this is the first step of the process."

The Atlantic League is a partner of MLB for this very reason, as ESPN reported in February that the former would "act as a testing ground for experimental playing rules and equipment."

Prior to the season's start in March, ESPN's Jeff Passan outlined the rules the Atlantic League would be experimenting with.

Wednesday night's All-Star Game was a historic step long in the making.

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