Mokdong Baseball Stadium in Seoul on the 3rd, where the first game of the round of 16 of the 2023 Shinsegae E-Mart Cup National High School Baseball Championship was held. In the bottom of the first inning, Masan Yongma High pitcher Kang Chae-woon’s full-count deciding ball dug into the batter’s body at the plate of Min-jae Jeon, who was a three-year-old. The referee’s cheerful strikeout call was briefly overturned as a walk, and Jeon Min-jae walked to first base.
The Automatic Pitching Judgment System (ABS), dubbed ‘robot referee’, has landed in high school baseball. The purpose is to improve the fairness of judgment and reduce irregularities in entrance exams. If the technology successfully takes root in high school baseball, the voice demanding the expansion of application is expected to grow. 메이저놀이터
ABS is a mechanical system that makes the final judgment on balls and strikes instead of a referee wearing a referee’s uniform. A radar or optical camera is used to capture the trajectory of the ball that has left the pitcher’s hand, and it is applied to the virtual 3D strike zone to determine whether it is a ball or a strike. The decision result is delivered to the referee in real time through earphones, and the referee only needs to declare accordingly.
The match, which ended with a come-from-behind victory by Masan Yongma High School, was the first stage for ABS in high school baseball. Masan Yongmago asked for reading three times and Segwang-go twice, and the centrifuge was overturned five times, including Jeon Min-jae at bat in the first inning. An official from the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) explained, “There was a slight difference between the strike zone in the ABS and the referee’s decision.”
Robot referees were piloted in the professional baseball Futures League in the second half of 2020 led by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
However, there are still many mountains to overcome before the introduction of the first professional team. In short, a question mark is attached to whether the ABS judgment fits the original purpose of the strike zone. It is a concern that even a ball that is difficult for a batter to hit in reality will be recognized as a strike because it is caught like a knife even if it passes through the three-dimensional zone. A similar controversy is currently ongoing in the United States, which weighed the possibility of introducing ABS before Korea.
KBO plans to further refine its skills while continuously accumulating actual game data through Futures League and others. Exchanges related to the major leagues will also continue. A KBO official emphasized, “ABS is a project that the KBO and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism have been promoting,” but “it should be introduced in a perfectly prepared state.”