KBO umpires in training camp this week to prepare for pitch clock, robot umps

SEOUL, - The South Korean baseball league said Thursday its umpires are attending winter training camp this week to prepare for the introduction of the pitch clock and the automated ball-strike system (ABS) starting in 2024.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said the camp opened at the minor league park for the Doosan Bears in Icheon, just southeast of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province, on Monday, and will run through Friday.

The KBO announced in October that it will use the ABS, colloquially called robot umpires, starting in 2024. The system uses a tracking system to determine balls and strikes, and relays the call to the home plate umpire through an earpiece.

The KBO will also follow in the footsteps of Major League Baseball (MLB) and introduce the pitch clock. In 2023, MLB set a 15-second timer on pitchers with the bases empty, and a 20-second timer with runners aboard. The average time of a nine-inning game in the majors amounted to 2 hours and 40 minutes, down by 24 minutes from 2022. That game time dropped to as low as 2:30 during the season.

In the KBO, a nine-inning game ran for an average of 3:12 in 2023, up by a minute from the previous season.

At training camp, umpires tried to familiarize themselves with the earpiece and walkie-talkie for the ABS, while calling simulated games to prepare against potential problems that could arise.

Umpires also worked on their communication with pitch clock operators, who will be in charge of starting and stopping the countdowns over the course of a game.

According to the league office, KBO Commissioner Heo Koo-youn visited Icheon on Wednesday to listen to what the umpires had to say about the changes.

Source: Yonhap News Agency