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Robot umpires in minor league

Photo: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Change is coming to the baseball diamond, as "Computers will be used for ball/strike calls starting April 25 in the independent Atlantic League," AP's Ronald Blum writes, noting the space between home plate and first base will condense by 3 inches while the gap that separates the mound and home plate will grow by 2 feet for the second half of the season.

Details: "Plate umpires will wear earpieces and be informed of ball/strike calls by a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar ... Umps will have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone."

Good news for humans: Joe West, who has umpired more than 5,000 big league games and is on track to break Bill Klem's record in 2020, said a past TrackMan test was spotty, missing 500 pitches in one month.

  • "The beauty of baseball is that it's not foolproof," said West, who umpired his first big league game in 1976.
  • "You've got to hit a round ball with a cylindrical bat square, and then you've got to get it past people. The game is typically American. It's always somebody else's fault when they lose — and usually it's [the umpire]."
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