Umpires will now be equipped with on-field microphones to inform the crowd and television audience of replay reviews beginning with exhibition games at stadiums this weekend, Major League Baseball announced Friday.
Crew chiefs will wear a microphone, via a belt pack, and will proceed to one of the baselines when a replay is initiated and face the press box to make the announcement. They'll announce who is making the challenge, what is being challenged, and then -- after the review is completed -- announce the verdict and give a quick explanation.
Until now, umpires had revealed their decisions such as safe and out with hand signals.
"I think opening up communication with the fans is a step in the right direction," Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday morning. "It'll become mainstream very fast."
Hinch indicated that several umpires had expressed nervousness about speaking publicly in that manner, since it's never been part of their job.
"I think they're a little uncomfortable with the mechanics of it until they get to do it," Hinch said.
Major League Baseball was going to begin informing fans about replays in this manner in 2020, but the pandemic delayed the rollout.
"We discussed the possibility of doing this with the umpires during their most recent CBA negotiation,'' MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword said, "and then COVID got in the way of our planning. We finally were able this year to give them the appropriate training and get everybody ready for Opening Day."
MLB was the last major pro sport in North America to institute replay when it began late in the 2008 season for home run calls. Video reviews were vastly expanded for the 2014 season.
Of 1,305 calls challenged by clubs last year, 655 calls were overturned (50.2%), 221 were confirmed (16.9%) and 429 were allowed to stand (32.9%) when there was insufficient evidence to overturn or confirm. There were 159 additional crew chief reviews initiated by an umpire.
NFL referees were given wireless microphones in 1975 to explain penalty decisions. The NFL had an initial replay system from 1986 to 1991, abandoned it, then reinstalled it for the 1999 season. The NHL added a replay system in 1991 and the NBA in 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.