Catchers' signals—and stealing them—could become a relic if an experimental electronic device is successful. Major League Baseball will give catchers in the Low A West league the option starting Aug. 3 to use a 12-button transmitter that can be strapped with Velcro around a catcher's wristband. Receivers fit inside the sweatband of a pitcher's cap and the padding of the catcher's helmet. A tiny speaker is included, with volume designed to be loud enough for the player to hear but not be so loud that nearby opponents can pick up the sound. Teams with the option to be included in the experiment are Fresno, Lake Elsinore, Modesto, Rancho Cucamonga, San Jose, South Inland, Stockton and Visalia, Major League Baseball said in a memo sent Friday to farm directors and field staffs of Low-West teams, per the AP.
The device, developed by a company called PitchCom and tested at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, is programmed for signals in English and Spanish. Clubs can add languages on their own, such as Japanese and Korean. MLB hopes the devices will cut down on time spent by pitchers stepping off the rubber and changing signals. Sign stealing has been an issue since professional baseball began in the 1860s. If successful, an electronic device in theory would eliminate a large part of sign stealing, though teams still try to detect signals from the dugout to batters and baserunners. Coaches and players other than the catcher may not be sent signals. Pitchers and catchers leaving games may hand devices to the incoming player, or a new pitcher may enter with the extra receiver each team will be given.
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