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Robot referees make their debut in the independent Atlantic League

The "robot referees" have arrived.

The independent Atlantic league became the first professional American baseball league to let a computer call the balls and hit Wednesday night at its all-star game. The referee, Brian deBrauwere, carried in his pocket an earphone connected to an iPhone and relayed the call as soon as he received it from a TrackMan computer system using a Doppler radar.

He squatted in his normal position behind the catcher and reported balloons and strikes.

"Until we can trust this 100% system, I still have to go back to it with the intention of getting a correct pitch, because if the system goes down, it will not work. It does not increase the pitch or it registers a step that is a foot Half a match in attack, I have to be ready to correct that, "deBrauwere said before the game.

It does not appear that deBrau had a delay in receiving calls at the beginning, but the players noticed a big difference.

"One time, I had already picked up the receiver's ball and he had reported the hit," said pitcher Daryl Thompson, who did not realize that the technology was being used up to it does not agree with a call.

Field player L.J. Mazzilli said on a few occasions that hitting strikers lingered about a second longer in the batter's penalty area waiting for a third shot.

"The future is crazy, but it's cool to see the direction that baseball takes," Mazzilli said.

The referees have the ability to neutralize the computer, which considers a throw as a shot when the ball bounces and then crosses the area. TrackMan does not evaluate control swings either.

Formerly renowned player Kirk Nieuwenhuis does not like the idea of ​​giving the veto to the umps.

"If the referee still has a little bit of discretion, he's going against the goal," said Nieuwenhuis, who beat .221 with 31 homers in 978 to battles against the Mets, the Angels and the Angels. Brewers.

About 45 minutes before the first launch, the announcer asked the fans to look up at the black screen hanging above the top level behind the plate and joked that they could blame the computer for any disagreement concerning calls.

"It's an exciting evening for MLB, the Atlantic League and baseball in general," said Morgan Sword, MLB's Senior Vice President of Economics and Operations. "This idea has existed for a long time and it is the first time that it has been concretized in a global way."

The experimentation of radar tracking technology to call the bullets and strikes was initially to start at the beginning of the season but experienced some delays.

Atlantic League President Rick White has announced that this strategy will be implemented throughout the league over the next few weeks.

"After that, we're pretty sure it's going to be spread through organized baseball," said White. "We are very excited about this not only for our league, but also for the future of baseball, what we know is that technology can help referees to be more precise. and we are determined to do it.We believe that the Atlantic League is a pioneer for all sport ".

Sword said the MLB had not received much criticism from the referees.

"One of our goals is not to replace the referee," said Sword. "In fact, we are trying to empower the referee with technology.The home referee has a lot more to do than hand balls and strikes and we will be asked to do all this. we are in touch with our Referee Union and that is the first step in the process. "

DeBrauwere had no problem with that.

"This is just another plaque work and I'm just getting some help on this one so I feel very relaxed to get into this one," he said.

The attack zones are determined according to the average of the players of this height, unless one already has information on the attack zone of a player if he has already played in major tournaments .

Thrower Mitch Atkins noticed that the higher shots in the strike zone had been called.

"Technically, these are strikes but the referees never called them," Atkins said.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there was no deadline for the use of technology in the majors.

"We have to see how it works, first in the Atlantic League, then probably elsewhere, that is to say in other minor baseball games, before moving on to Major League Baseball," said Manfred. "It kind of brings me back to the question that I had asked all the time about baseball, the players are telling us all the time, why do not we have an electronic strike zone, why do not we have an electronic strike zone? We have spent a lot of time and money on technology, not only to address players' concerns, but also for its uses in This technology can also be used in our broadcast, which is valuable and we believe it is up to us – the people who play the game consider that it could improve the game. to determine if we could make it work, do you. "

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