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Robot umpire to make Las Vegas Ballpark debut this month

You won’t see it among the list of Aviators promotions. But when the team returns home to open a homestand against Sacramento on May 31, it will be Robot Umpire Night at Las Vegas Ballpark.

As cool as it would be to witness R2-D2 of Star Wars fame or one of the Stepford Wives call balls and strikes, the robot umpire that will be making its Pacific Coast League debut is called the Automated Ball and Strike System, or ABS, as it would appear in a box score.

A sensor above home plate detects the location of a pitch via cameras placed above the diamond. The data is relayed to a device that sends an audio file into the ear of the home plate umpire, telling him to call a ball or strike.

As might be expected, there were glitches with the installation at Las Vegas Ballpark. But Aviators president Don Logan said those have been worked out, and the robot ump is now warming up in the bullpen.

“We go on a 12-game road trip, and when we get back, it goes into action,” Logan said.

“Like I’ve been saying, technology is here, every other sport uses it probably more than baseball. We’ll see how the ABS does. Certainly it takes the guesswork from the umpires away, so there won’t be as much bellyaching as there typically would be.”

Combined with instant replay, ABS ultimately might eliminate managers being ejected from games.

“Good thing Wally is on the back nine,” Logan said of former Las Vegas skipper Wally Backman, who was known to throw baseball equipment onto the field when a ball or strike call didn’t go his way.

Around the horn

— On Friday, I received a cellphone video showing Trey Hurlburt, a former walk-on for the UNLV men’s basketball team, making a basket against West Coast Baptist at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Coronado High product appeared in eight games in three seasons for the Rebels, sinking three of his nine field-goal attempts and scoring seven points.

But guys who sit at the end of the bench and lead the scout team have dreams, too.

Hurlburt’s was to play for the Rebels and make his family proud. Parents Brian and Heather are UNLV graduates; grandpa Russ is UNLV’s longest tenured professor and served as grand marshal of Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

When he graduated (along with close to 100 other UNLV athletes) with a degree in communications, Trey Hurlburt probably held his head just as high as his former teammate Bryce Hamilton did the night he scored 45 points against Colorado State.

— Henderson’s Gavin Beavers, who last summer made United Soccer League history by starting a game in goal for Real Monarchs of Salt Lake City as a 16-year-old, was one of three keepers who participated in the U.S Under-19 Men’s Youth National Team training camp in Carson, California.

As one of 33 players invited to the camp by new U.S. coach Marko Mitrovic, Beavers will be eligible for this summer’s CONCACAF (North America, Central America and Caribbean association soccer) U-20 championships in Honduras.

— Jim Schossnagle, who left UNLV for Texas Christian, where he guided the Horned Frogs to five College World Series berths, is 31-16 in his first season at Texas A&M of the juggernaut Southeastern Conference.

His Aggies, who recently took two of three games against then-No. 3 Arkansas, are ranked 10th in this week’s NCAA poll.


As the Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore wrote, trading wide receiver and former third-round pick Bryan Edwards to the Falcons on Friday is another indictment of the team’s 2020 draft, which will go down as one of the worst in franchise history.

And yet the Raiders received a B+ from this newspaper and similar lofty grades from other draft experts for their 2020 selections.

Keep this in mind the next time your team picks somebody like Ken O’Brien ahead of somebody like Dan Marino: When it comes to the draft, college recruiting and close plays at first base, everything is subject to further review.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.