Image credit: An example of a Triple-A ABS challenge in action.
If you attend a fair number of Triple-A games in person, the challenge system that is used on the weekends in each and every series has likely become somewhat routine for you.
But for many of you who don’t live near a Triple-A ballpark, the ABS challenge system may seem to be still somewhat obscure. The rules are relatively straightforward. A challenge can only be requested by the pitcher or hitter, and the request much some very quickly after the pitch. The rule is designed that way to ensure that no one is reviewing video or anything of that sort before asking for a challenge.
To challenge, the pitcher or hitter just taps their hat/helmet to indicate to the umpire that they want to challenge the ball-strike call. Everyone then turns to the video board, where the pitch is displayed. The result is shown after the graphic of the ball crosses the plate.
If a player successfully challenged the call, they retain their remaining challenges. If a challenge is unsuccessful, it counts as one of the team’s three challenges. Once a team runs out of challenges, it’s done for the rest of the game.
Here’s an example of the system in action. Apologies for a little bit shaky camera work, but here’s Jackson Holliday challenging a strike three call on a 3-2 count in Sept. 15’s Norfolk-Memphis game. Holliday’s challenge was successful, so he turned a strikeout into a walk.
By our count, from the time Holliday taps his helmet to the time where the call is reversed is 14 seconds. If you count it from when the umpire acknowledges the challenge, it takes 11 seconds.