Strikeout or home run? ‘Robotic’ umpire being tested by Sugar Land Skeeters

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SUGAR LAND, Texas – Far from the pressure and the furor of Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters are testing new equipment that may one day take the human error out of calling balls and strikes.

One of the changes is an electronic strike zone -- or what is being called the "robot umpire." It’s based on the Trackman system, where Doppler radar tracks the pitch into an electronic strike zone. Each strike zone is different based on batter data.

The system sends calls to an earpiece worn by the umpire, giving him a strike, ball or “no-track” call. The umpire then relays the call or makes his own call on the “no-track” call.

Some players, like Skeeters outfielder Anthony Giansanti, want to keep the human element in the game.

“(In baseball) you have the roller coaster of emotions, but the ones that can control it and move on, and make adjustments -- I don’t know if a Trackman helps that part of the game,” said Giansanti.

Other players, including Skeeters pitcher Dallas Beeler, who has played in the MLB for the Chicago Cubs, recognizes the game is evolving.

“(Baseball) is a progressive game,” said Beeler. “Hitters get some pitches, pitchers get some pitches, and now it’s going to be something where it’s much more consistent.”

The Skeeters have their Trackman camera set up, but will not start using it until all teams in the league have their cameras set, something the team believes will happen within the next few weeks.

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