MLB to test cricket ‘Hot Spot’ system to improve umpiring

New York: The short-sightedness of Indian cricket administrators could be a bonus for fans of Major League Baseball.

Military grade thermal-imaging cameras that have improved the television spectacle in cricket and helped on-field umpires cut out some — but not all — mistakes will be tried at the World Series.

The cameras spot the friction-heat generated when a ball hits a bat or players’ protective padding and gloves. Little nicks or glances that the naked eye may miss because the ball is traveling so fast and the contact is so slight often show up nicely, as a white mark, with the images generated by the Hot Spot system.

But Australian Warren Brennan, who supplies the cameras for cricket, feels that the game’s power-brokers in India — which, with its hundreds of millions of fans is increasingly the centre and future of cricket’s universe — don’t appreciate and thus don’t deserve his technology. So Brennan withdrew his services for India’s upcoming series of one-day games against England and is instead shipping three of his cameras to the United States, for use by broadcaster Fox Sports.

In the World Series, the cameras will be trained on the batter, one on both sides to cover both left- and right-handers, with the third at the front, Brennan says.

The images won’t be used to help officiate games, as they are in cricket. But, if Fox likes them, they might be broadcast to viewers, perhaps sometime into Game 1 or from Game 2, adding a dimension to their understanding of the action. Until Brennan actually gets to use the cameras in the World Series, he cannot be sure what results he’ll get with baseball.

But, conceivably, Hot Spot could show just how sweetly a player thumped a home run or may detect things umpires miss. That could include, say, the faint touch of a ball on a batter’s wrist or uniform — which, according to baseball’s rules, should send him to first base.

“The proof’s always in the pudding with these type of things,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “We’ll just have to take it there, you know, and try it during the games and see whether we get a similar type of results as we get for cricket, and just go from there.”

“A nice big home run off the middle of the bat might come up fantastically well, and the Americans might think that’s better than sliced bread. It’s all about their impression, really. It’s not what I think might work and might not work.”

Bureau Report

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