Mighty Mussels test robo-umpire technology for MLB

Mighty Mussels test robo-umpire technology for MLB

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Umpires are not perfect. They are not robots. However, this Summer they are being replaced by robots at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. 

“We’re kind of the guinea pigs for this,” said Mighty Mussels manager Brian Meyer. 

For two-thirds of all Mussels games this season balls and strikes will be called at the plate using Automatic Balls and Strikes (ABS) technology. 

It’s something Meyer is still getting used to. 

“You can tell there is a little difference just in terms of delay from the umpire’s call,” Meyer said.

However, in the small sample size, so far, Meyer said the game hasn’t changed much because of the new technology.

“If you don’t know it’s happening it’s really hard to pick up that it is actually a robot that is giving the umpire a signal,” Meyer said. 

So, how does a robotic system know more than a trained umpire? It has eyes all over the park, rather than just behind the plate. 

Using cameras located around the ballpark, ABS is able to map and personalize a ballplayer’s strike zone based on their height. 

This way, every player has a strike zone suited to their own size. 

After a pitch is thrown,  ABS signals the home plate umpire using their ear piece and tells the umpire what to call whether the umpire agrees or not. 

“I wouldn’t like it,” said Mighty Mussels season ticket holder John Redding. “I think it’s taking away from the game.” 

Redding said he noticed the same delay Meyer has. But aside from a slight delay after a pitch is thrown, hasn’t noticed any big differences between ABS and umpires. 

In fact, it’s not just the Mighty Mussels who are on the cutting edge of this new technology.

Stadiums all over the state in the Low-A Southeast League of Minor League Baseball are trying out these robo-umps to see if there is a viable future for ABS in the sport. 

“That’s 720 games of information that they’re going to have and really get a good evaluation of if this is something that could succeed higher up in the minor leagues and ultimately at the major league level,” said Meyer. 

If ABS gets called up to the big leagues or stalls out in the minors is anyone’s guess. But next time you disagree with a  call at the plate at Hammond Stadium, you may want to think twice about jeering at the umpire. 

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