A coach in the dugout using a wireless device will be able to speak directly to his catcher to call pitches in SEC conference baseball games and in the postseason tournament in 2018, a move that is expected to significantly reduce the length of games.
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel last month approved a request from the Southeastern Conference to allow the technology on an experimental basis. It won’t be used in nonconference games or NCAA postseason games.
The conference will share with the NCAA its findings about the trial’s effect on pace of play. The NCAA did not have complete regular-season game length data for 2017. College World Series games averaged 3 hours, 15 minutes this year, and the average has been 3 hours or longer all but one of the last 13 years.
SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent said he’s been told the technology could trim as much as 5 seconds from the time it takes to deliver each pitch. If there are 240 pitches in a game, that would add up to 20 minutes.
“Attendance is such an important factor in what we do, and we’re talking about what would cause people to come to games, not come to games or leave early from games,” Vincent said. “In baseball it’s long been a point of discussion. Baseball is a very traditional sport and you don’t want to do too much that changes the actual nature of the sport. We think this happens to be one area that can speed up the game without really impacting the performance on the field.”
The dugout-to-catcher communication will be one-way. Catchers will wear an earpiece to hear the type of pitch the coach wants thrown and then relay a sign to the pitcher.
Typically, a coach has called pitches through numerical codes printed on the catcher’s wristband. The coach signals a number, the catcher identifies the pitch on his wristband and then relays the sign to the pitcher.
Lincoln, Nebraska-based GSC, which designed the coach-to-player communication system used in the NFL since 2012, is providing the technology to the SEC. Financial terms are still being worked out. Teams will begin using the technology during fall practices.
GSC’s Alex Shada said a coach in the dugout can speak to the catcher using a walkie-talkie or a microphone clipped to his jersey. A receiver will be attached to the back of the catcher’s chest protector.
In the NFL, the quarterback and one defensive player are allowed to wear helmets equipped with a speaker to hear play…