- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2019

Tony Thomas watched the pitch pass the catcher and bounce to the backstop. Then, he realized he could take off for first.

The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs outfielder reached the bag and made history Saturday, becoming the first player in baseball history to steal first base.

A new rule implemented in the independent Atlantic League for the second half of this season made it legal to attempt to steal first on a passed ball. It’s one of many out-of-the-box rule changes the Atlantic League is trying out as part of a partnership with Major League Baseball.

Andrew Bandstra, the Blue Crabs’ radio broadcaster, said on “Pollin and Loverro” that some players have not warmed up to the idea of stealing first because it’s scored as a fielder’s choice and actually lowers the player’s batting average.

“A lot of guys weren’t so interested in doing it, but that has caused catchers to be very lackadaisical,” Bandstra said. “They don’t sprint back to get a passed ball with nobody on. They just kind of watch it. Tony Thomas decided that he was gonna take advantage of it.”

Among the other Atlantic League experiments was a “robot umpire” that called balls and strikes in the league’s All-Star Game earlier this month.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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