The New Britain Bees and the Atlantic League are Major league Baseball’s new laboratory. The MLB is calling on the eight independent professional ballclubs to test their newest ideas and technologies.
This year, the Bees will play with bigger bases, no defensive shifts and the robotic umpire “trackman”, just to name a few. The full list of changes include:
- TrackMan: radar system tracking balls and strikes, relayed to umpire behind home plate using wireless headphones
- No mound visits unless a pitching change is being made.
- Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters.
- Limited defensive shifts. Teams are required to have two players on each side of second base.
- Time between innings reduced to 1 minute 45 seconds from 2:05.
- Distance from the pitchers rubber to home plate increased by two feet to 62 feet six inches.
- All infield bases increased in size from 15 inches to 18 inches.
TrackMan made it’s debut during the Atlantic League All-Star game in July and the system is set up at New Britain Stadium. It has yet to be used in a game, but the Bees say they will implement it soon.
As for the players and coaches, they say these new rules and technologies are great for helping the game feel more exciting for fans, but it’s a tough balance to not lose the integrity of the game.
"We can say that we're the pioneers of it and or you know it's just being innovative and that's where the game is going,” said New Britain’s field manager, Mauro Gozzo.
"The ability to steal first, that's completely new,” Bees pitcher Cory Riordan said. “Robot strike zone or using the bigger bases, what're doing is building on an already great game but the ones that actually change the game are tough to swallow."