Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told Fox Business that the sport will test out automated ball-strike technology — commonly referred to as “robot umpires” or “robo umps” — at some spring training games this year.
Another report later clarified that robo umps will not replace humans in any capacity at spring training. Standard umpires will call balls and strikes at every game, but MLB will be have an electronic strike zone set up at nine games in order to test and refine the ABS system.
Robo umps got their first live test in the independent Atlantic League during the 2019 season.
Manfred said calling the system a robot “may be an overstatement.”
“The way it works is the camera calls the ball or strike, communicates to an earpiece that the umpire has in his ear and from the fan’s perspective, it looks exactly like it looks today,” Manfred said. “We believe over the long haul, it’s going to be more accurate, it’ll reduce controversy in the game and be good for the game.”
During their latest negotiations this winter, the umpires’ union reportedly agreed to cooperate with MLB on developing ABS technology. MLB cannot implement the technology for regular-season usage just yet, but the human umpires appear to be a step closer to welcoming their new robot overlords.