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NCAA Approves Use of New Tech for Baseball, Softball

Andy Berg

The NCAA last week approved new technological advancements for college baseball and softball, including one-way communication devices and video replay challenges for the sports respectively. 

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved allowing the use of one-way electronic communication devices for the purpose of calling pitches and plays in college baseball. The rule goes into effect for the 2021-22 academic year.

Examples of what could be implemented next season include teams being allowed to use an electronic display board from the dugout that shows a numerical code to call pitches and/or defensive plays. Teams also can use a one-way in-ear communication device that would be limited for use from the dugout to the catcher.

Several conferences, including the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Pac-12, Southeastern and Sun Belt in 2021, have experimented with in-ear communication and other one-way electronic communication devices to call pitches from the dugout the past four seasons.

The panel also approved implementing video review and allowing coaches to have two video review challenges beginning in the 2021-22 academic year.

There is no requirement to use the video review rule. It is optional for all schools, conferences and tournaments to implement.

Over the past few years, conferences have experimented with video review in conference tournament games, including the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Sun Belt conferences during the 2021 season. Softball Rules Committee members have received positive feedback about the experimental rule and recommended that video review become a permanent aspect of the game.

Under the new rule, each head coach will have two challenges to initiate a review for the entirety of the game. A coach must verbally or visually indicate a challenge request before the next pitch, before the pitcher and all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding position and left fair territory, or before the umpires have left the field of play.

The umpire crew chief also has the discretion to initiate a review of designated plays beginning with the sixth inning of a game.

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