Forget rain: baseball’s newest bane is drone game delays

drone delay baseball

Professional baseball has gone to some extreme, and some argue self-destructive, lengths to cut the duration of both major and minor league games. One thing it hasn’t been able to rule-change into submission is rain stoppages. And now it looks like baseball may also have trouble with drone delays.

Hovering drone forced minor league baseball game delay

On Saturday night, the appearance of a drone provoked an extended delay in the game of Major League Baseball (MLB) Saint Louis Cardinals’ single-A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs. The interruption occurred in the eighth inning as the hometown Chiefs sought to protect its 7-3 lead over the visiting Cedar Rapids Kernels. Things were going fine, a new relief pitcher in to get the last six outs needed for the win, when suddenly the first base umpire pointed above the infield and called time.

“And, yeah, there’s a drone flying overhead. I assume this game will be in a delay,” the TV announcer reacted during the TV broadcast. “And that’s the case, with the players being pulled off the field. We have a drone delay.”

The craft continued hovering above the abandoned field, its green lights flashing, before suddenly dropping straight down close to the ground. 

“Is the drone going to land now on the diamond?” the perplexed play-by-play announcer asked, somewhat annoyed at the disruption in a game where – pressures from the MLB to speed things up being as great as they are – any kind of delay becomes a real problem. “Just when we thought time of game was going our way.”

Drone field invasions for robot umpire era

The next question he had was what could be done to halt the interruption. 

Federal Aviation Administration FAA) rules prohibit flying drones near stadiums with capacities of 30,000 or more, but he Chief’s Dozer Park only seats 8,000. So if the MLB’s tradition-mauling rule changes to speed up contests cover a lot of ground – which, in some minor leagues, even includes robot umpires calling balls and strikes – they haven’t anticipated baseball drone delays.

“What’s the playbook on this? If this individual doesn’t want to leave the premises, what do you do?” the announcer asked, before wondering whether his station should deny the invader the airtime that most disruptions of games seek. “Should we stay on the air during this?”

Chances are, people will be studying that and other questions regarding potential drone delays to baseball games – especially with Saturday’s being the second the Chiefs have suffered. On August 5, 2015, a similar black craft appeared over Dozer Park, causing umpires to pull players off the field while stadium officials searched for the pilot ­– ultimately in vain.

Last Saturday, however, was a different matter, with the mystery flying field invader being quickly caught.

“We found the guy, he’s outside the ballpark, down the street,” Chiefs general manager Jason Mott told the Peoria Journal Star. “He was flying his drone in the ballpark trying to get footage of his grandkids or something, watching the game… The people who need to handle this are handling it, and it’s been taken care of.”

Maybe this time. But what’s going to happen if a drone causes a delay over a professional baseball stadium and the only on-field authorities to deal with it are robo-umps?

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