MLB Tests Electronic Voice Transmitter for Catchers to Signal Pitchers
Major League Baseball is testing a new voice technology to convey pitch calls from the catcher to the pitcher on the mound. The PitchCom receiver in the pitcher’s ear tells them what to throw based on which buttons the catcher presses on the connected device strapped to their wrist.
PitchCom bypasses the traditional signs used by catchers to signal what pitch they want. Instead, the catcher presses buttons on a pager-like device to indicate not only the kind of pitch but where the pitcher should throw it. The pitcher hears a pre-recorded voice telling them what the catcher wants, and can accept or shake off the suggestion, prompting the catcher to press different buttons. The somewhat generic male voice can relay signals in both English and Spanish.
The idea is to speed up picking a pitch, especially in response to runners on-base. There’s no need for multiple signal sets or for the catcher to walk to the mound. In addition, the encrypted message prevents any signal from being deciphered by on-base runners. The Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, and New York Mets are all testing PitchCom right now. Their feedback will determine if the rest of the league uses PitchCom and what changes need to be made to the tech beforehand. Minor League players already tested PitchCom last summer, but the first MLB appearance of the tech took place during an exhibition between the Rays and Atlanta Braves.
The MLB and MiLB have been stepping up other experiments with tech this year too. All 120 MiLB teams now have an AI-powered chatbot from Satisfi Labs to answer fan questions and sell tickets. If it goes well this season, the bots will likely be called up to the majors like PitchCom. Satisfi has been entrenching itself in baseball beyond the MiLB, especially in the last few years. The startup launched voice apps for Google Assistant and Alexa for more than a dozen individual Major League Baseball teams. Asking the voice assistants to talk to those teams sets up a conversation through Satisfi Labs’ Interactive Search Engines using the information provided by the teams. Fans can learn about statistics, schedules, team history, and the real-time score of current games. The Alexa feature has additional World Series info and updates with statistics and predictions before the championship begins.