Major League Baseball has started testing an electronic pitcher-catcher communication device for the eight teams that make up the California League.
The move to an electronic system effectively means that the series of signs used by catchers and pitchers, to determine what pitches to throw, will not be visible to fans at upcoming Modesto Nuts or Stockton Ports games.
“So, this is along those lines (of) stealing of signs, and it’s kind of finding a way with new technology to safe-guard it against possible infiltration,” explained Stockton Ports manager Rico Brogna. “Definitely the cheating … went a little too far.”
“So, initially I saw it online and I was kind of like, ‘What’s this? What’s going on?’” said Ports pitcher Jake Walkinshaw. “You’re always hesitant to try new things and now you’re thinking it’s kind of going to mess with your routine. But I was just happy I got to try it in the bullpen first.”
“Honestly, I have no complaints with it and I think using it, with a guy on second base, instead of throwing down four or five signs and figuring out a sequence, I think it’s going to speed up the game for us,” Walkinshaw added.
Ports catcher Matt Cross liked it as well. “Oh, so simple. It’s got like a guide on the front and you just turn it back around and it’s got like that square-box for the strike zone, it’s got all the pitches on it, and it’s all good,” he said.
The device has the catcher wearing the transmitter like a wristband, while the receivers are in both the pitcher’s cap and the catcher’s helmet.
The transmitter includes nine buttons to select the desired pitch and location and comes programmed in both English and Spanish.
“It was comfortable in the ear. It spoke to me clearly and it’s pretty simple instead of trying to decipher a sequence of signs from the catcher,” Walkinshaw said.
“You know, he shook me off and we went right back to it. Fast and easy, no confusion. It was simple,” Cross said.
The electronic system is the latest in a long list of experiments conducted throughout the minor leagues this season, all to try and increase game action and ultimately shorten the time of each game.
“It’s a good place to try things in the minor leagues, and if it doesn’t interfere with the essence of the game, pitchers making pitches, not having to think of another thing, then OK,” Brogna said.
The company that makes the device, PitchCom, says hacking the system is virtually impossible since it uses an industrial-grade encryption algorithm.