Pitcher-catcher communication system tested in Minor Leagues

Minor League Baseball is set to begin testing new technology that will allow catchers to electronically communicate signs to pitchers in an effort to address ongoing concerns about illegal sign-stealing practices.

The testing will take place in the eight-team Low-A California League beginning Aug. 3. The system developed by PitchCom includes a transmitter worn on a catcher’s wristband that communicates to a pair of receivers — one tucked in the sweatband of the pitcher’s hat, and the other placed in the padding of the catcher’s helmet. The transmitter has nine numbered buttons that catchers will push, first to signal pitch types and then locations, via pre-recorded English or Spanish audio tracks (teams can record their own audio tracks). That information is then transmitted on an encrypted channel and played with bone-conduction technology.

“We are excited to see our PitchCom technology tested under game conditions,” PitchCom’s co-owners, Craig Filicetti and John Hankins, told ESPN. “As avid baseball fans, we saw a clear opportunity to use technology to help solve pace-of-play and sign-stealing challenges and improve the game that we love.”

This technology arrives after the fallout of the Astros sign-stealing scandal that was first brought to light in late 2019, and in a time when MLB teams continue to be on high alert for opponents lifting signs from catchers to gain advantages at the plate. Such technology could also help improve pace of play in baseball, with the hope being that pitchers and catcher spend less time cycling through signs or implementing alternate sign plans to keep their opponents guessing.

PitchCom guarantees that it is impossible to hack the encrypted communication channel shared by the pitcher and catcher. Additionally, players found wearing a receiver while hitting at the plate will be ejected during this testing phase, and only the player actively catching in a game (not teammates or coaches) will have access to a transmitter. If players and coaches need to hold a discussion because of an issue with the device, that team can notify the umpires and it will not be charged a mound visit.

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