Sunday, May 22, 2022

MLB turns to electronic pitch-calling system to fight cheating

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For more than a century, baseball catchers have signaled pitches with their fingers, but that could soon be a thing of the past in the major leagues. Major League Baseball has approved the use of a system that allows catchers to electronically send cues to their throwers.

The PitchCom system revolves around a sleeve catcher worn on their forearm. They can press buttons to identify the field type and location. The pitcher hears the call through a bone conduction listening device. The channels are encrypted and teams can program code words to replace terms like ‘fastball’ or ‘curveball’.

According to the Associated Press, MLB will provide each team with three transmitters, 10 receivers and a charging case for the system, which works in Spanish and English. Teams can use one transmitter and up to five receivers at any time. Along with catchers and pitchers, three other fielders can use a receiver, which is tucked into the cap. The devices can only be used during matches on the field – not in clubhouses, bullpens or dugouts.

PitchCom is optional and teams can still use traditional hand gestures if desired. About half of MLB teams are said to have expressed an interest in using PitchCom. Some players tested the system during spring training and it was generally well received ESPN reports.

“I think it can be beneficial when it comes to August, September and October and you’re pushing into the playoffs, with all the scouts in the stands and your eyes on you trying to decipher what you’re throwing,” Chicago White Sox pitcher said Dallas Keuchel. “It will be nice not to have to go through different signs.”

The technology could help teams fend off the threat of their opponents stealing boards, a problem that has loomed over the sport in recent years. The Houston Astros were infamously caught stealing boards using a camera and monitors during their run to the 2017 World Series title. Teams have even been accused of using fitness trackers to signal opponents’ pitch calls. Widespread adoption of PitchCom could eliminate such cheating attempts and speed up the game.

Meanwhile, the creators of PitchCom are: working on a version of the system that will provide visual indicators of pitch calls. It is expected to be available next year.

PitchCom Sports

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