Among the many stories of high dollar sports contracts, class-action lawsuits over head injuries and a few highly publicized injuries, a recent story emerged that could impact professional baseball in one of the most significant ways since the sport began. Baseball players and fans alike have long argued about the accuracy and fairness of umpires calling balls and strikes during games.
Moreover, players and fans have long believed that human error, poor vision and umpire bias have ruined many games. To remedy this long-standing issue, several independent companies have been researching ways to free baseball from the possibility of any sort of umpire bias. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fremont-based Sportvision Inc created one version of the new technology and hopes to have it in play for major league games in the future.
Recently, independent league games hosted by the San Rafael Pacifics tried out the computerized umpire system called the Pitch F/X system. The new technology is essentially a camera that can watch the pitch from several angles and analyze the ball’s route much more precisely that the human eye. After the ball is pitched, it can determine with pinpoint accuracy whether the pitch is a ball or a strike.
However, the high-tech new systems are not necessarily designed to eliminate the need for human referees, rather they are intended to assist in some parts of the game.
Former player and network analyst Eric Byrnes served as the “strike zone umpire” for the games utilizing the new technology for the very first time. In basic terms, Byrnes’ role was to oversee the computer system and relay all balls and strikes calls to the players and fans.
Both fans and players alike watched the games with deep interest since they were billed as the first in professional baseball history in which a human didn’t call balls and strikes. The company that created the technology is ensuring umpires that they need not worry about their jobs. It was reported that the automated strike zone systems wouldn’t cost umpires their jobs because an on-site review official would still be required.
However, this is not to say that blind acceptance of the new product is expected. Yes, the system’s ultimate purpose is to create a consistent strike zone and eliminate arguments during games. But the company who created the system used for the Pacifics’ games is encouraging parties to come forward with comments, suggestions or criticisms. It is their belief that such arguments would help in creating the best product possible to serve the overall needs of major league baseball.
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