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Minor League Baseball

Independent baseball team to use PITCHf/x to call balls and strikes

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The San Rafael Pacifics (Calif.), a member of the four-team Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, announced that for two games it will rely upon a computerized video system to call balls and strikes, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle. The games played next Tuesday and Wednesday are believed to be the first time a human won’t be calling pitches at any level in professional baseball.

The PITCHf/x system, which many fans are familiar with due its use during television broadcasts, will be the method implemented. A creation of Fremont-based Sportvision Inc., PITCHf/x relies upon three cameras to triangulate a pitch’s trajectory and speed as it crosses over home plate area.

Vinnie Longo, the Pacifics assistant general manager, insists that even if an entire league ever decided to implement a computer-monitored strike zone, the human element would never be completely removed as an official would be needed on-site to handle reviews and monitor the system.

“This is an incredible opportunity for baseball as a whole,” he said.

Former major leaguer Eric Byrnes, who backs the concept of utilizing the technology to call pitches, will serve as “strike zone umpire,” a role in which he will oversee the computer video system and then relay its calls to the field. He is using his role of system overseer to raise funds for the Pat Tillman Foundation. The current MLB Network analyst will donate $100 for every walk and strikeout, and upped the ante significantly by announcing he will donate $10,000 to the charity if he is forced to eject a player or manager over arguing the calls made by Pitch F/X.

In any event, the future of baseball umpiring may be on the horizon. And it’s computerized. I, for one, welcome our new ball-and-strike-calling overlords.

[H/T Big League Stew, top image via Sportvision]

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