Atlantic League to debut robot umpires and allow players to steal first base


Relive some of the biggest moments from the 2019 MLB All-Star Game.

The Atlantic League, an independent baseball league, is rolling out a new revolutionary rule and will debut robot umpires to start the second half of the season. 

On Wednesday, during the league’s All-Star Game in York, Pennsylvania, robots will call balls and strikes for the first time in a professional game, according to The Washington Post. 

The league will also allow batters to steal first base — yes, steal first — on a pitch not caught cleanly, similar to a dropped third strike. Except, the runner can attempt to reach first during any count. 

Using robots will still include a human element, however. A human umpire will still be located behind home plate with a bluetooth-connected earpiece, which feeds the call from a software program in the press box through an iPhone. 

The umpire then relays the call to the players on the field and the crowd, as he or she normally would. And in this case, they can actually overrule the call, and the umpire’s decision is final. 

“I think once people actually see this happening, they’re going to realize it’s not that big a deal,” Atlantic League president Rick White told the Post. 

The circuit expects to equip all eight of its stadiums — seven in New York and one in Texas — with the software, which includes a small panel located above and behind home plate, for the second half of the season. 

When the pitch crosses the plate, the process is simple. The system registers the pitch and spits out the call, either “ball” or “strike.” 

Sports data firm Trackman created the system and Major League Baseball provides it. In fact, per the Post, the league has already been testing the operation at two stadiums over the last few weeks. 

“I have seen this coming. It’s inevitable,” Atlantic League umpire Derek Moccia told the Post. “The game is changing. Baseball needs to speed up to keep up with the world. And if you want to be on board with this, you have to keep up. The game is bigger than you, bigger than any player.”

In February, the Atlantic League and MLB announced a three-year agreement that said the deal will let the big leagues “implement changes to Atlantic League playing rules in order to observe the effects of potential future rule changes and equipment,” meaning it will essentially serve as a testing ground.

MLB wasted little time doing so and is clearly gathering as much data as possible, with negotiations ahead of the 2021 collective bargaining agreement, in which the players and ownership will have to approve such rule changes. 


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  • Shane Bieber of the Indians is awarded game MVP.1 of 52
  • Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees shakes hands with Francisco Lindor of the Indians after the American League won the All-Star Game.2 of 52
  • CC Sabathia of the Yankees visits Aroldis Chapman on the mound during the ninth inning.3 of 52
  • CC Sabathia of the Yankees visits teammate Aroldis Chapman on the mound during the ninth inning.4 of 52
  • Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees reacts during the ninth inning.5 of 52
  • Max Muncy of the Dodgers throws to first base during the eighth inning.6 of 52
  • James McCann of the White Sox catches a foul ball for an out during the eighth inning.7 of 52
  • Pete Alonso of the Mets hits a 2-RBI single during the eighth inning.8 of 52
  • Will Smith of the Giants reacts after giving up a home run to Joey Gallo of the Rangers during the seventh inning.9 of 52
  • Dave Roberts of the Dodgers relieves Brandon Woodruff (53) of the Brewers during the seventh inning.10 of 52
  • Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies hits a solo home run to cut the AL lead to 2-1 in the sixth inning.11 of 52
  • Indians players hug Carlos Carrasco after the Stand Up For Cancer moment.12 of 52
  • Indians players stand with teammate Carlos Carrasco during the Stand Up For Cancer moment.13 of 52
  • Fans and players hold Stand Up For Cancer signs.14 of 52
  • Fans hold Stand Up For Cancer signs.15 of 52
  • Max Muncy of the Dodgers throws to first base for the out during the sixth inning.16 of 52
  • Jorge Polanco hits an RBI single in the fifth inning for the AL team.17 of 52
  • The sunsets over Progressive Field.18 of 52
  • The socks of Alex Bregman.19 of 52
  • Third baseman Alex Bregman makes a play in the fourth inning.20 of 52
  • Ketel Marte celebrates a double in the third inning.21 of 52
  • Alex Bregman scores on an RBI double by Michael Brantley ini the second inning.22 of 52
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, the NL starter, delivers a pitch in the first inning.23 of 52
  • Freddie Freeman laughs off his strike out in the first inning.24 of 52
  • Justin Verlander shut down the NL 1-2-3 in the first inning.25 of 52
  • Former Indians ace CC Sabathia is honored before the game.26 of 52
  • Mike Trout wears number 45 in honor of late teammate Tyler Skaggs.27 of 52
  • American League players pause for a moment of silence Tyler Skaggs, the Angels pitcher that died last week.28 of 52
  • Fans stand for the National Anthem.29 of 52
  • Angles pitcher Tyler Skaggs is remembered during a moment of silence prior to the All-Star Game.30 of 52
  • The flyover during the National Anthem.31 of 52
  • NL All-Stars shag flies in the outfield: From left to right -- Jeff McNeil, Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich and David Dahl.32 of 52
  • Max Muncy of the Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Rockies chat in the infield.33 of 52
  • Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso showing off the guns.34 of 52
  • Felipe Vazquez takes the field.35 of 52
  • Indians SS Francisco Lindor takes BP before the All-Star Game.36 of 52
  • Indians slugger Carlos Santana takes infield practice.37 of 52
  • Hunter Pence showing off his sleeveless jersey during practice.38 of 52
  • Mookie Betts hits the cage.39 of 52
  • Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and wife Kate Upton on the red carpet before the game in Cleveland.40 of 52
  • Mike Moustakas of the Brewers is interviewed by Nick Swisher.41 of 52
  • A young fan shows off an autograph from the red carpet.42 of 52
  • Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon walks the red carpet.43 of 52
  • Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor poses on the red carpet before the game.44 of 52
  • Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant tosses a fan an autographed ball.45 of 52
  • Braves outfielder Ronald Acua Jr. poses with a Venezuelan flag on the red carpet before the game.46 of 52
  • Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman with his son on the red carpet.47 of 52
  • Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia poses with his family on the red carpet.48 of 52
  • Oakland Athletics mascot Stomper entertains fans on the red carpet.49 of 52
  • Pirates first baseman Josh Bell does an interview on the red carpet.50 of 52
  • Nick Swisher interviews Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas. with his daughter, on the red carpet.51 of 52
  • Mets first baseman Pete Alonso signs autographs on the red carpet.52 of 52

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