It takes sharp eyes to notice one of the changes this season to SEC baseball. Look closely and you might see some wires running to an earpiece being used by one of Alabama’s catchers.
An SEC rule passed before the 2018 season allowed teams to use a radio and headset for communication from the dugout to the catcher to call pitches. That was done on an experimental basis to see if improved communication sped up the game.
A handful of teams began using the radios during the 2018 season, including Alabama, but it’s become more common around the conference this spring.
“It’s a lot easier,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “You can get more information to the catcher when you can just get on the walkie-talkie.”
While it’s common for professional catchers to call pitches on their own, most college catchers had previously received signals from the dugout. Pitching coaches or head coaches would make calls and relay them to the catcher, who would relay those calls to the pitcher.
The radio makes it easier for coaches to communicate with the catcher directly. It’s a one-way system; catchers can hear the coach but cannot send a message back. There have been some technical difficulties with the system, but it’s still the preferred method of communication.
“It’s a great device,” Bohannon said. “All the coaches I’ve talked to have really enjoyed it. I don’t know how much it speeds up the game or not, but we like it. We’ll keep using it as long as we’re able to.”