MLB umpires will start announcing replay review decisions to ballpark crowds

·3 min read

MLB announced on Friday an important change that will affect fans attending baseball games in person and those watching on their TV, computer, or mobile device.

Starting this season, which begins April 7, umpires will now be mic'd up so they can announce the outcome of replay reviews.

This is a much-needed change. Replay reviews can take a varying amount of time, as little as 15-20 seconds or as many as five minutes or more. And at the end of that, when the umpires handed their headsets back to the technician, they'd make a motion with their arms indicating what the outcome was. The crowd at the ballpark might not be able to see that, and it might not know what the signals mean. The TV and radio broadcasts could also not know exactly what was going on. Having umpires announce the result means no one is left in the dark.

MLB historically resistant to on-field technology

The addition of on-field announcements also pushes MLB a little further into the 21st century. Out of the four major North American sports leagues, MLB has historically been the most resistant to making technology part of the in-game experience, and it was the last to institute any kind of replay review.

For example, the NFL experimented with replay review in the late 1980s, and the coach's challenge was instituted in 1999. But MLB didn't institute any kind of replay review until 2008, and it was limited to boundary calls on home runs that only umpires could trigger. It wasn't until 2014 that MLB implemented the system we know today, which includes one coach's challenge per game.

This is a positive change, because it brings viewers further into the game by actually letting them know what's happening on the field. But it was initially hard to believe it was actually happening. Not just due to MLB's resistance to technology, but because the announcement was made on April Fool's Day. ESPN's Jeff Passan had to reassure everyone that it wasn't a joke.

Everyone was right to be skeptical at first, because no one wants to get tricked into thinking something cool and useful is happening when it's not. This time, it turned out to be true. But maybe next time MLB should consider not announcing a major on-field enhancement on the biggest social-media joke day of the year.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 25: Second base umpire Bill Miller #26 and first base umpire Doug Eddings #88 review a play during a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on August 25, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Starting with the 2022 season, MLB umpires will now announce the outcome of replay reviews to the ballpark crowd. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)