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Look out umpires- the Robots are coming!

And here’s a breaking ball on the outside corner of the plate. It’s a borderline pitch. Is it a ball or strike? The umpire calls . . . neither.

That’s because he’s being replaced by a computer.

And Eric Byrnes.

The independent San Rafael Pacifics will use a computerized video system to call balls and strikes next Tuesday and Wednesday in their games at Albert Park in San Rafael.

They’re billed as the first professional games in which a human won’t call balls and strikes. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt has expressed his desire for an automated strike zone.

Calls will be made by the Pitch F/X system with three cameras forming a triangular effect that judges a pitch’s trajectory and speed as it crosses the plate. Pitch F/X is used on TV broadcasts to determine a pitch’s location and also for umpires to judge their work.

Byrnes, a former A’s outfielder and proponent of an automated strike zone, will serve as the “strike zone umpire” and oversee the Pitch F/X system, a product of Fremont-based Sportvision Inc.

Byrnes has been aggressive raising money for the Pat Tillman Foundation, and this is his latest event. Byrnes’ role will be to relay the computerized balls and strikes to the teams and fans. He’ll donate $100 for every walk and strikeout - and $10,000 if he ejects a player or manager for arguing balls and strikes.

“Pat lived his life as a forward-thinking man, and I feel like the automated strike zone is a fitting way to honor his memory,” said Byrnes, who raised money for the foundation last year by playing two games for the Pacifics. “Last year’s tribute to Pat was a huge success. Making history in his name is just another way to teach the next generation about who Pat Tillman was, what he stood for, and the incredible sacrifices he made.”

Pacifics assistant GM Vinnie Longo said games with an automated strike zone wouldn’t cost umpires their jobs because an on-site review official would be necessary.

“This is an incredible opportunity for baseball as a whole,” Longo said.

The Pat Tillman Foundation provides educational scholarships to military veterans and donated more than $6 million in support since 2004.

John Shea is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter @JohnSheaHey

Views: 186

Comment by Coach Paul on July 23, 2015 at 5:37pm
I think it should start at the 9-10 age group and follow them up to adulthood. Show us all what a 100% perfectly called strike zone does to the sport. Games would never get past the third inning.
Comment by Coach Paul on July 23, 2015 at 5:41pm
Also, the system is meaningless if it doesn't adapt to each player’s upper and lower limit on each pitch. Dustin Pedroia 's strike zone should be smaller than Hanley Ramirez ' s zone.
Comment by Kip Gross on July 24, 2015 at 12:58am
Imo, if you're going to use instant replay use computers for the strike zone. I've been saying for YEARS that all that has to occur is a light flash in the home umpires mask when the pitch is a strike. He the signals strike. No flash, no signal and it's a ball.

One of the reasons I would like to see this is because no matter how good an umpire is he can get influenced during a game in many different ways and that ONE call can decide the entire game . I've heard the argument from catchers saying that they don't like it because some catchers get more calls than others because of their catching ability but why should a pitcher get hurt because his catcher isn't as good as others in the league.
Comment by Juan Baret on July 24, 2015 at 1:24pm

Call me old school but I still like the human element aspect of the game....I like how instant replay is helping get calls more accurate on the field but they need to find a way to speed up the process. I like the light flash idea in the mask and to keep the umpire on the field, that would be a hybrid approach to the situation.   

Comment by Kip Gross on July 24, 2015 at 5:43pm
Juan, believe it or not, the way instant replay is now done in the nfl was something I said that should be done the first year it came out. And even that could get better. In baseball there has to be a way to get a better angle on all four bases as far as up top. Same with football, why isn't there a camera over every first down line and every goal line? And I'm old school as well, but the strike zone is all over the place in almost every game. To many missed calls.


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