BRIDGEWATER, NJ – What looks like a square satellite dish the size of a car door has been bolted to the roof of TD Bank Ballpark between Luxury Suites 301 and 302 facing towards the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
Fans of the Somerset Patriots will have a front row seat during the 2019 season experiencing the future of baseball.
Meet Trackman, part camera, part computer, the embodiment of multiple levels of technology and tasks designed to assist umpires calling balls and strikes; to analyze the angle and velocity of each pitch, as well as each ball put in to play by each individual batter.
The installation of Trackman at TD Bank Ballpark, and the seven other stadiums in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is part of a three-year agreement signed in February by Major League Baseball and the ALPB that will field test the technology, as well as implement rules changes that will impact the management of the game and strategies employed by managers, changes that potentially may be adopted by MLB in the future.
The experiment will also impact more than a century of traditions within the foul lines – bigger bases, lengthening the distance between home plate and the rubber on the pitcher’s mound; limiting mound visits by managers and pitching coaches and elimination of defensive infield shifts - that’s just for starters.
The distance from the pitcher’s rubber to home plate will be increased two feet to 62 feet 6 inches; MLB theorizes batters should have a better look at the pitch, cutting down on strike outs.
First, second and third bases will be increased in size to 18 inches square from from 15 inches square, seen as an advantage to both the runner and fielder.
Other parts of the field testing to take place at Atlantic League games include:
- The time between innings will be reduced by 20 seconds to 1 minute, 45 seconds from two minutes, five seconds;
- Pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters, an attempt to speed up the game and cut back on pitching changes.
“This first group of experimental changes is designed to create more balls in play, defensive action, baserunning, and improve player safety,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s senior vice president, League Economics & Operations. “We look forward to seeing them in action in the Atlantic League.”
The proposed changes are fluid.
Less than two months after announcing the partnership, the ALPB walked back a few of the proposed changes earlier this month..
The use of the Trackman radar tracking technology to assist the home plate umpire in calling balls and strikes will be implemented gradually over the course of the 2019 season rather than on ALPB Opening Day. The Patriots open their season Friday, April 26 against the New Britain Bees at TD Bank Ballpark.
Second, the plan to extend the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by 24 inches has been delayed from the second half of the ALPB’s 2019 season to the same point in 2020.
“Our partnership with Major League Baseball calls for ongoing mutual consultation. As we conduct discussions and work together, certain adjustments will need to be made on an ongoing basis in order to serve the partnership’s priority of providing the best possible data to Major League Baseball in the highly competitive Atlantic League environment,” said Rick White, president of the ALPB. “This is, and will remain, a thoughtful relationship intended to best serve the future of the game of baseball.”