For Pete's Sake

A coach was ejected over disagreement with ‘robot ump’ calls in Atlantic League

Atlantic League player steals first base thanks to new rule

In the bottom of the 6th inning of a game between the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Lancaster Barnstormers, Tony Thomas was able to steal first base when an errant pitch bounced behind the catcher, thanks to a new experimental rule change.
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In the bottom of the 6th inning of a game between the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Lancaster Barnstormers, Tony Thomas was able to steal first base when an errant pitch bounced behind the catcher, thanks to a new experimental rule change.

The answers to the future trivia questions are Tony Thomas and Frank Viola.

Thomas was the first player in baseball history to steal first base, and it happened during a game Saturday for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Atlantic League. That sounds like a scene out of a T-ball game, but nah, it was a professional contest.

The Atlantic League is serving as a laboratory for Major League Baseball, experimenting with new rules including a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, larger bases (by 3 inches to 18 inches on all sides), an electronic strike zone and the ability to steal first base.

Here’s how a steal of first works, via the Washington Post: “Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.”

As you can see in the video above, Thomas took off when he realized a pitch had gotten past the catcher.

“It was just something that I never thought I’d be a part of,” Thomas told Fox News. “The (pitcher) was on the mound, wasn’t consistent around the strike zone and I found a way to get our team on base and the opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t something I thought about going into, but when I saw the ball stuck underneath the backdrop I knew I had no shot of getting me out at first base, so I took off and went.”

As for that electronic strike zone, well, things haven’t been perfect.

On Saturday, High Point Rockers pitching coach Frank Viola, the former Twins/Mets star, was the first to be tossed for arguing balls and strikes from the “robot umpire.”

For those clamoring for an electric strike zone, it appears that three of those pitches caught the zone.

By the way, here’s how the “robot umpire” system works, from the Post: “They’re human umpires wearing a Bluetooth-connected earpiece, connected to an iPhone, connected to a software program in the press box. The software doesn’t make every call, just balls and strikes. And if it’s wrong, the human umpire can step in to overrule the program, and his decision, not the software’s, is final.”

Apparently Viola hoped for the umpire to override a call or two and wasn’t happy when it didn’t happen.

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