Like many prospects, robot umpires are working their way up the farm system and will be receiving a dramatic promotion to Triple-A this upcoming season.
According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball has decided to expand its automated strike zone trials to the highest level of the minor leagues by enforcing the system behind home plate. A human element will remain elsewhere throughout the diamond, as umpires are still required to make calls around the basepaths.
Multiple job listings on MLB’s website only confirmed the recent news, as the league says it’s “actively recruiting” seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball and Strike system (ABS) around the Triple-A level. Of the eleven teams listed in need of an operator is the Charlotte Knights, affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
“ABS will leverage optical tracking data to determine and communicate ball and strike calls to plate umpires. It is critical we provide quality support to the umpires and the technology while capturing data around system performance,” MLB said in the job posting.
“The ABS Tech will be located at field level to physically support the plate umpire including his device, its functionality, and wiring. The ABS application is a simple phone app operated on an MLB-supplied iPhone with a WiFi connection.”
The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to implement robot umps at its All-Star Game in July 2019. The league continued experiments with ABS during the second half of that season, followed by the Arizona Fall League a few months after. Though an intriguing concept, it didn’t go without several complaints from players about its inaccuracies.
In addition to Triple-A, Major League Baseball says in its job listing that ABS will be used in select Spring Training venues in Florida, again in Low-A Southeast, and potentially at other non-MLB games and venues.
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