Feb 23, 2022 - Sports

College baseball's new tech experiment

Will Bednar of the Mississippi St. Bulldogs pitches against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the Division I Men's Baseball Championship in June 2021.

Mississippi State Bulldogs' Will Bednar pitches during the Division I Men's Baseball Championship in June 2021 in Omaha, Neb. Photo: Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

College baseball's return this past weekend brought more than just web gems and long bombs — it also introduced a new wearable pitch-signaling device.

How it works: Multiple teams debuted the tech, which was developed by Game Day Signals and is meant to reduce sign-stealing and increase pace of play.

  • The coach has a transmitter, which looks like a keypad and allows him to call pitches from the dugout. If he enters 15, for example, it means fastball (1) down the middle (5).
  • All nine players wear wristbands with a digital display to receive the calls. The main use case right now is for pitchers but could just as easily signal batters and baserunners.
  • Fielders having access to those calls is more impactful than it may sound at first blush — they can position themselves based on pitch type and location.
  • Another option, which Florida State used, is an earpiece worn only by the catcher to receive calls from his coach.

The big picture: The minors tested similar technology last season, and MLB — still in full experimental mode — will keep an eye on how these devices perform at the college level, and how they're received by fans.

Zoom out: Technology is encroaching on America's (very traditional) pastime in a myriad of ways. Consider this possible future...

  • The pitcher, with his eye on the pitch clock, throws a curveball — called electronically by his coach — toward home plate, where a robo ump is calling balls and strikes.
  • The batter swings — remembering the lessons learned during his tech-driven training — and gets called out on a close play at first, which his manager instantly challenges via instant replay.
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