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Robots Referees & # 39; debut in the ASG Atlantic League

YORK, Pa. – "The robot referees" have arrived.

The independent Atlantic League became the first professional American baseball league to let a computer call bullets and shots Wednesday during 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 system to 100%, I still have to go back with the intention of correcting it because, if the system breaks down, it does not increase. not the step, or if he registers a step that is a foot- a half-hour strikes, I have to be ready to fix that, "deBrauwere said before the game.

It does not seem 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 ball from the catcher and he signaled the shot," said pitcher Daryl Thompson, who had not realized that the technology was being used up until that point. He disagrees with the call.

Field player L.J. Mazzilli said on several occasions that the batters who pulled off the attack stopped about one 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 ordered the fans to look up at the black screen hanging above the top level behind the plate and joking about the fact that they could blame the computer for them. disagreements during the 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 what it means not only for our league, but for the future of baseball, what we know is that technology can help referees to be more precise. and we are determined to do so.We believe that the Atlantic League is a pioneer of 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 try [to] empower the referee with the technology. The marble umpire has much more to do than throwing balls and strikes, and will be asked to do all that. We are in contact with our referee union and this 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 hitting areas are determined based on the average of players of that height, unless information about a player's hitting area is already coming from his game in the majors at any given time.

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

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

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that there was no timetable 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 been asking 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 dissemination, which is valuable, and we believe it is up to us – the people who play the game consider it to be something that could improve the game. it is incumbent on us to determine if we can make it work.

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