According to a January 2020 article in CBS Sports, the baseball world was dismayed in the offseason of the 2019 season when the Houston Astros were found guilty of sign stealing, or using technology to determine what the hand signals of the opposing team means in terms of what pitches are being thrown . In Bowling Green and other lower level programs across the United States, coaches and players say many new procedures are being pursued to avoid this situation.
In 2017, the Houston Astros were the face of Major League Baseball, winning 101 total games en route to a World Series championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros success would continue over the next few seasons, reaching a total of two World Series in a span of three years.
After a loss in the 2019 World Series to the Washington Nationals, a former pitcher for the Astros, Mike Fiers, went on record saying the Astros organization were stealing signs from opposing teams by using various technologies in their home ballpark to put them ahead of other teams giving them a distinct advantage.
After a series of investigations done by the MLB, the Astros were found guilty of stealing signs and were given various suspensions and fines.
“This changes everything,” BGSU baseball hitting coach, Ryan Shay, said. “No one would have known the Astros were doing it, not even the umpire’s if Fiers didn’t come out and say that.”
Others feel it challenges the overall integrity of not just baseball at a major league level, but to a lower league level as well.
“This gets more people interested, unfortunately, but it will raise awareness at all levels, youth and amateurs especially,” BGSU assistant coach Kyle Hallock said, who played with the Astros organization in his MLB career. “It’s going to be a scenario where it starts with them (the Astros and the Red Sox) and everybody else is going to need to wake up.”
When talking about a scandal on a professional level, some say it opens baseball up to an interpretation on every level, not just the Major League, as it calls into question the game itself. Shay thinks this isn’t something that can happen at BGSU.
“Not at our level, maybe the SEC, ACC, the people that have the more money, more technology. Would be a select few schools that would be able to do it and have the capability,” he said.
Teams, like the Astros, have the resources to get something like this moving and off the ground due to the budget they have; however, for a school like Bowling Green, who doesn’t necessarily get the funding and recognition that schools like Alabama or Florida State, experts say it makes it a lot harder to do something to this magnitude.
“I don’t think on this level there is enough time to do it on the level the big league’s do it. Pitch tipping is the biggest thing that happens at our level,” Hallock said.
Ryan Dick, BGSU freshman and an umpire for high school level baseball, supports this claim.
“With high school and college level, it’s harder to cheat. No doubt in my mind, there is some cheating going on at the college level, the technology is there. [But] usually coaches are the ones paying more attention. Sign stealing is one thing, but when you’re using technology, you’re on a whole nother level that makes it unfair,” he said.
Although many believe this scandal has harmed baseball, some coaches and players believe using resources and stealing signs is okay for the game, if done correctly and has been something that will continue to be a part of baseball for a long time.
“I think stealing signs in the right way is a part of baseball,” Shay said.