The next time a minor league manager kicks dirt on an umpire, it could actually cause a mechanical breakdown.
Well, maybe not exactly that yet, but the automated umpires used to call balls and strikes at the Low-A level last year are on their way to the Triple-A level in 2022.
According to the Associated Press:
MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.
The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.
There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.
All of this means, of course, the human element, so many love about baseball, is one step closer to being out the door, at least as it pertains to balls and strikes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report