Atlantic League to experience with ‘stealing’ first base

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LANCASTER, Pa. | The independent Atlantic League will experiment with allowing batters to “steal” first base.

Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere, left, huddles behind Freedom Division catcher James Skelton, of the York Revolution, as the official wears an earpiece during the first inning of the Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in York, Pa. deBrauwere wore the earpiece connected to an iPhone in his ball bag which relayed ball and strike calls upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar. The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional baseball league to let the computer call balls and strikes during the all star game. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After debuting a “robot” plate umpire in its All-Star Game, the league on Wednesday announced four more changes for the second half of its season. Most notably, a batter may run to first and try to beat the throw after any pitch not caught in flight. The batter would be out if he is beaten by the throw or is tagged before touching first.

In addition, a pitcher will be required to step off the rubber for pickoff attempts, a batter will be allowed one foul, two-strike bunt before a strikeout is called and plate umpires will define check swings more favorably for a batter.

The league has been experimenting all season with 18-inch bases, which shorten the distance between home and first by 3 inches.