First stop, Sugar Land. Next stop, Minute Maid Park? Robot umpire system could be headed to MLB soon

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Friday, June 10, 2022
Robot ump in use at Astro's AAA team could be on track for MLB
First stop, Sugar Land. Next stop, Minute Maid Park? Eyewitness Sports checked out how the Automated Ball-Strike system, also known as the robot umpire, is faring and how close it is to making it to "The Show."

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Manager Mickey Storey says a Minor League Baseball game has become the quiet game.

"There's not that chirp from the dugout or hitter or pitcher wondering if he's being shafted on a ball or a strike," Storey, manager of the Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys, explained.

Barking at the umpire about balls and strikes would be a pointless practice, because the umpire making those calls does not have ears.

"The strike zone is the strike zone now, and that brings a little bit of consistency to the game," admitted Sugar Land catcher Scott Manea.

As ABC13 reported earlier this year, the Automated Ball-Strike (ABS) system, a robot home plate umpire, is now in use at the Astros' top Minor League affiliate in Sugar Land. Cameras positioned around Constellation Field are part of a Hawk-Eye system which tracks the pitch and the strike zone.

The call is then relayed, via an earpiece, to the human umpire who remains in place to signal ball or strike. The process is quick, consistent, and catching on.

"I even checked with the umpires to make sure that thing is working," Storey recalled. "It's pretty instant. You don't really notice any hiccup in the call."

As a catcher and a hitter, Manea deals with balls and strikes on both offense and defense.

"I think it actually adds some sort of consistency to an approach," Manea said. "So you know what is going to get called a ball or called a strike. But one thing from a catcher's perspective is the value of receiving. Framing and getting borderline pitches called strikes for your pitcher. It's something we as catchers work on a lot. So, the Automated Ball Strike technology takes away that advantage."

The players we see on the field at Triple-A are one step away from the Majors. Can the same be said for the robot umpire?

"I don't see how it wouldn't at least be on the table," Storey said. "At the end of the day, when we get calls right and we can go to sleep at night knowing that's the call - and we have evidence to back it up, why wouldn't we want the correct calls made all the time?"

So, the robot umpire may be making its way to a Major League ballpark soon. And remember, if you're complaining about that call, it can't hear you.

SEE ALSO: MLB hiring for robotic umpire tech staffer who will be embedded at Sugar Land's Constellation Field

Robotic umpires, a system that was used at Sugar Land's Constellation Field in 2019, is getting a broader promotion in AAA for 2022.

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