And so it begins.
A home plate umpire won’t be calling balls and strikes next week at a couple of independent league baseball games.
According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Rafael Pacifics will use the Pitch f/x system (which is used to show balls and strikes in TV games and at MLB.com’s GameDay) and former major leaguer Eric Byrnes will be a “strike zone umpire.”
San Rafael assistant general manager Vinnie Longo told the Chronicle that there was no reason for concern about the automated strike zone costing umpires their jobs because an on-site review official would be necessary.
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“This is an incredible opportunity for baseball as a whole,” Longo said.
According to Sportsvision, which created Pitch f/x, “The system utilizes three tracking cameras and a central pitch tracking system in every stadium. Each tracking camera records the pitch from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand until it crosses the plate, and then it sends this information to the tracking system to calculate and store the digital record of the pitch —including speed, location, and trajectory.”
Byrnes, who played for 11 seasons with the A’s, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Mariners and Orioles, is using the two games to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation. According to its website, the Pat Tillman Foundation “invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships — building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.”