Robo-Umpires Coming to a Ballpark Near You

With the rise of robots in so many businesses, it was only a matter of time before they reached baseball. And now it is happening. The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which includes the Sugar Land Skeeters, is implementing the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) for the remainder of the season. The technology will debut at Sugar Land's Constellation Field on Tuesday July 30.

The ABS system uses radar to measure the correct strike zone and apply it to each pitch. Skeeters General Manager Tyler Stamm says the time has come for this technology. "When you have umpires that people know are not good at calling balls and strikes, and have inconsistent strike zones, why would we not want to correct that, and why would we not want consistency across baseball," he tells KTRH. "Every player will now have a consistent strike zone no matter who the umpire is, so it is having the same strike zone every game, every pitch."

But this isn't a story about robots taking people's jobs. Human umpires will remain, even with the ABS system. "You still need a home plate umpire for check swings, for balls that get away from the catcher, or for making calls at the plate," says Stamm. "So the home plate umpire is still very necessary, plus he's also there to monitor the (ABS) system."

Major League Baseball is overseeing the rollout of the ABS system through a partnership with the Atlantic League, leading to speculation that the technology will eventually make it to the big leagues. "Based on everything I'm seeing, it's working so well in our league, I'll be shocked personally if it's not in play in Major League Baseball in our lifetime," says Stamm.

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