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The absence of instant replay in Division III baseball

By Matt Czeitner

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Instant replay has completely revolutionized sports. The ability to be able to review a play at just a push of a button has transformed everything. From the way we watch sports, to how they are analyzed, coached, covered and remembered. Many are fans of instant replay and think that it’s great for sports. Others, want it out and feel it ruins the tradition of sports. However, instant replay has proven to be so crucial at times that it has changed the way games are officiated and even determines who wins and loses in some instances.

Instant replay has even found its way into certain college sports. However, it is in only Division 1 sports who have instant replay currently. Division 3 sports still have not adopted the idea of instant replay review.

So why is there no instant replay review in Division 3 sports?

It’s very simple, it’s the lack of technology available. In college baseball for example, replay started with only a very short list, at only the College World Series. This past season, replay has found its way into super regional games. Coaches are now allowed to challenge certain calls and up to six umpire calls in a game can be reviewed if the calls are questionable.

As the technology improves at Division II and Division III levels, those divisions will make a decision whether to use instant replay for their respective championships. It will be interesting to see what the actual technology will allow them to do in the short period of time. It has the chance to be a positive, as long as it’s not interrupting the flow of the game.

“I really think it would be great to see replay at championship level games in Division III baseball. If the technology is present it could be very helpful to making sure the game is played fairly and the correct calls are made,” said Oswego State’s Head Baseball Coach Scott Landers. “Although I think this, it will still be very difficult to get that technology into games like a SUNY AC championship game. We have the cameras so fans can watch, but in terms of instant replay that would be very difficult to do I think,” said Landers.

The technology seems to be the most difficult part of this whole situation. Division III sports unfortunately will not receive such technology unless the games are televised on a national level with a network like ESPN. A full camera crew is needed for a game like that and they follow the game play-by-play to make sure there are no errors what so ever.

“It would sure make my job a whole lot easier and a lot less stressful to have instant replay around,” said SUNYAC Umpire David Slater. “As an umpire, I think we have an easier game to officiate compared to a sport like basketball where a referee is constantly making calls but we still aren’t perfect and having something like replay would be very helpful to us,” said Slater.

In professional baseball, instant replay is used in every single game. It is mainly used on close plays at bases when the play involves a tag on a runner. You see plays like this happen almost every single game. It is also used for homeruns, especially if it is questionable if a fan interfered with the play or not.

Replay has always been a topic of debate. Many people like replay but many people also hate replay. People who like it often defend themselves by saying it keeps the game fair and it makes sure the game is finished correctly from start to finish. The correct calls are made and the correct winner is a result. People against it, often complain it slows the games they love down and it takes far too much time to review plays.

 In my opinion, it is far too slow on the professional level. Let’s say I’m watching a game by myself. A guy steals second and is called safe, but it’s close enough for one team to challenge. Generally, the broadcast will have shown enough replays that it’s clear whether a play should be upheld or overturned before a team even challenges. It’s at least clear enough by the time the crew chief gets to the headphones. Yet we still have to wait 2-3 minutes for the whole rigamarole to complete itself. Why not give an ump a cell phone or some type of device he can be contacted quickly on so he can get a text from New York once the ruling is made? It’s literally that simple. Forget headphones and slow crew-chief walks to behind home plate. “Safe” or “out” via text and – bam – the job is done in 30 seconds.

“I do think instant replay is good for baseball, I do. It makes sure the correct calls are made throughout the game. I think it would be great to have in Division III sports but sometimes it takes way too long and slows the game down,” said Oswego State Designated Hitter Nick Chilson. “I’m definitely not opposed to replay but I just wish it was a little quicker than it is,” said Chilson.

To put the impact of instant replay into perspective, in the 2018 MLB season there were 1409 challenged calls. 585 of these calls were overturned, which is 41.5 percent and 824 of these calls were upheld, which is 58.5 percent. That is a whole lot of calls for umpires to check out in one season. All of these challenges have occurred throughout the entire baseball field as well. A graph on shows challenge reviews by base which concluded the following; 277 calls at first base, 416 calls at second base, 216 calls at third base, 176 calls at home plate and 324 calls in the field (a challenge on a completed catch or not). The number of challenged calls varies from year to year but the number always finds itself in the 1200-1500 range.

So, will we see instant replay come to Division III sports? It is honestly tough to say. A lot of these Division III schools are smaller schools that don’t have the access to such technology of cameras and even people willing to work these games like Division I schools do. Oswego State is a very successful team who just won their own SUNYAC Tournament not too long ago. The Lakers find themselves in the NCAA Tournament this year which could be a perfect spot to try out the instant replay. Will they do it? Probably not. But in the future, this is where the instant replay could truly become a factor. In these national tournaments and big games where every single play and call matters.

“We are in the NCAA Tournament now and I’m so excited for this team. I could only imagine losing a heartbreaker in this tournament due to a blown call by an umpire late in the game, it’s just not something you want to see or experience,” said Landers. “It honestly would be perfect to add the replay to a tournament like this, but we just haven’t been given that blessing yet,” said Landers.

Oswego baseball wins third straight SUNYAC championship

The NCAA has still not made any additions of instant replay to games or tournaments in Division III baseball. It has done it for Division III football and basketball but only in the National Championship games. Division III baseball teams hope that one day they will have the privilege of instant replay such as Division I and professional baseball teams have in their every day games.

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