Robot Pitchers Hit the Mark | God's World News

Robot Pitchers Hit the Mark

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    The Trajekt Arc pitching machine can imitate the throws of any big league pitcher. (AP/George Walker IV)
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    A ball propelled by the Trajekt Arc pitching machine flies through the air. (AP/George Walker IV)
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    A baseball moves through the Trajekt Arc pitching machine. (AP/George Walker IV)
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    Trajekt uses data to mimic the way balls spin and break from big league pitchers. (AP/George Walker IV)
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    Trajekt has for the first time been approved by Major League Baseball for in-game use this year in batting cages. (AP/George Walker IV)
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Coming this summer to a field near you: a high-tech pitching robot. The device accurately mimics the throws of any big league pitcher. Major League Baseball approved the device for in-game use this year—so players can tackle a ’bot version just before facing the real-life opponent.

Nestor Cortes stands in a batting cage. He watches an eight-foot, 1,200-pound robot spit out fastballs, cutters, and sweepers exactly like the ones that spin from his own fingers.

“It was like seeing myself pitch,” the New York Yankees All-Star left-hander says. “That was crazy.”

The Trajekt Arc pitching machine draws upon data compiled from years of pitching videos. A computer enables the robot to generate pitches that mimic the way balls break from every big league pitcher. Plus, the Arc produces holographic images of pitchers. Hitters can step in and virtually practice against any pitch from any pitcher in the show.

“You’re training their brain. You’re training their eyes,” says Philadelphia hitting coach Kevin Long about the benefits of Trajekt Arc. So when a batter encounters Cortes the lefty—or anyone else—craaack! Tell the ball goodbye!

The pitch-imitating machine is an improvement on Charles Howard Hinton’s 1896 pitching gun. And it’s more sophisticated than Paul Giovagnoli’s 1952 Iron Mike pitching machine. A later version of the Iron Mike has been hurling balls since the 1970s.

Joshua Pope is founder of Trajekt Sports—spelled with a K because it’s the letter used for strikeouts in baseball scoring. As a high school student with a shoulder injury, Pope knew he wouldn’t play baseball in college. But he stepped up to the plate in another way.

Pope studied mechanical engineering with professor John McPhee at the University of Waterloo in Canada. McPhee had developed a hockey slapshot robot. Pope transferred the principles of gyrospin, or forward rotation of a moving object, from hockey pucks to baseballs.

Under McPhee’s coaching, Pope built a pitching machine prototype. Years of MLB films of pitchers gave Pope a vast amount of data for coding his machine.

He programmed 11 of the 12 variables of pitching into his robot. They include timing, sequencing, and stride length. The only variable not included in Trajekt Arc is release point: The machine releases at exactly 56.5 feet from the plate.

Until this season, MLB had limited use of Trajekt Arc before and after games. For 2024, MLB has approved it for in-game use in batting cages.

For hitters hoping to turn plate appearances into at-bats, that’s a home run.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord. — Colossians 3:23

Why? Often, what seems like a closed door is actually an opportunity to turn a disappointment into a new and far-reaching achievement.

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