Tampa Bay Rays catcher Christian Bethancourt wears a PitchCom earpiece during a spring training game in February. PitchCom technology has been used in the major leagues since 2022. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Technology similar to that used for calling pitches in Major League Baseball is coming to the high school level – and could be on its way to Maine.

The National Federation of State High School Associations approved a rule in June to allow for devices that transmit one-way signals from a coach to the catcher, a measure taken in hopes of speeding up the game. The baseball committee of the Maine Principals’ Association, the agency that oversees high school sports in the state, will meet this fall to discuss whether electronic communication should be used in games here rather than relying on traditional hand signals from coach to catcher.

The devices – which can range from an earpiece worn by the catcher to get verbal instructions from the coach to wristbands that receive encrypted codes made on a keypad by the coach – would create added expense for high school programs. That raises questions about whether the technology would create a disparity between teams that can afford them and those that cannot.

Elliot Hopkins, director of sports and education services for the national federation, said the new rule is not geared to a specific system or style of communication, allowing schools to use a setup within their financial means.

“You have to be sure that everyone has financial resources and access to partake in it, and I like what the (federation’s baseball) committee did. They didn’t name one particular company or one particular type of encryption standard,” Hopkins said. “That’s the beauty of it, it’s not one size fits all. … It could be an earpiece in the catcher’s helmet. That’s one of many options.”

Technology for calling pitches has become the norm at baseball’s highest levels. PitchCom, a wireless communication system that debuted in the major leagues in 2022, is used by all 30 teams. The technology allows a catcher to press a button on a transmitter to indicate the type of pitch and location, with the message received in an audio device worn by the pitcher.


In 2018, the NCAA began allowing college catchers to wear an earpiece and get pitch calls from coaches. Since 2022, many college teams have been using wristbands that display the pitch call made on a keypad by the coach in the dugout. The wristbands can be worn by multiple players on the field, not just the catcher. The keypad and wristband devices are made Game Day Signals, a Virginia software developer.

The new rule for high school baseball, however, prohibits coaches from communicating with any player other than the catcher. The coach must be in the dugout or on the bench when using the device.

Hopkins said the length of games at the high school level – two hours and 10 minutes on average nationally – wasn’t a problem, but that the federation was eager to adopt a way to make play more efficient.

“The game could be even better, it could be even tighter,” Hopkins said. “Adding the electronic communications, coaches feel they can communicate better with their pitcher through the catcher than (with) the old traditional signs and calling out colors and numbers and all of that.”


Falmouth catcher Ethan Hendry, a 2023 Varsity Maine All-State selection, said he’s hoping to see the devices make their way to Maine.


“I think it is definitely pretty cool. I know I’ve had so many times where our pitches have gotten picked up by other teams, so I think it would be beneficial,” he said. “Every single pitch, we’ve got to do the whole entire (sign) process. It definitely takes a long time, and it definitely tires you out by the end of the game.”

Falmouth High catcher Ethan Hendry applies a tag on Reis Stamaris of Cheverus as he dives for home during a game on June 9. Hendry is excited about the prospect of catchers getting instructions from a coach via an earpiece or codes sent to a wristband. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Thornton Academy coach Jason Lariviere is glad the devices were approved by the national federation.

“I hope we get it next year,” he said. “I think every sport’s evolving a little bit, so it’s nice to see them quickly implement this, and hopefully we can do it in Maine. I’d be ecstatic. It makes the game maybe a little bit faster and gives the coaches more control and (allows them to) be more decisive with pitches and things like that. I think it’d be great.”

Lariviere said the devices would be effective at speeding up the game.

“Now, you have to give signs from the bench. You can’t just have it be a simple kind of thing, because the other team’s looking,” he said. “You have to go through multiple signs; it can’t be as simple as, ‘I touch my nose and that’s a fastball, and then another touch is a location,’ and that’s it. You’ve typically got to give many signs. … Sometimes, the catcher doesn’t see it, and he’ll ask you to repeat it.

“With something like (an electronic) device, it’d be so easy. It’d be two buttons. … That takes less than a second.”


South Portland coach Mike Owens said he doesn’t think the devices would significantly affect the game. With the catcher being the only player with a device, he will still need to take the time to give the signs to the pitcher.

“If you could just tell it to the catcher in his ear and he could just throw the sign down, I think you’re eliminating potential teams picking up on your signs and that could speed it up. But I honestly don’t think it’s a huge issue,” he said. “It’s very similar to an offensive coordinator talking to their quarterback. … He still has to go call the play.”

Owens said a benefit to the technology, however, could be a chance to discuss strategy if an audio device is used.

“Maybe you can get a little more specific with it. Rather than just say ‘I want a fastball,’ now you can tell him, ‘Let’s get a fastball up and away and get him to chase; if not, we’ll come back with something soft,’ ” Owens said. “You can discuss with your catcher what you’re trying to do.”

Greely catcher Wyatt Soucie, a first-team all-Western Maine Conference selection as a sophomore this spring, said he would like to see the devices used. But he said the new rule is limiting because the catcher is the only player who can have a device.

“A lot of times, I feel like runners will steal signs on second. I don’t know how it’ll affect that situation,” he said. “Usually, a good catcher will use multiple signs, but sometimes it can still get picked up.”



While Hopkins said the national federation made it a point to give schools options to choose the setup that’s best for their budgets, the technology can be expensive. PitchCom co-owner Craig Filicetti told the Press Herald his company will lease equipment to high schools for under $1,000 per year. On its web site, Game Day Signals lists devices used by a coach and a player at $249 each, with added expense for chargers and wristbands.

Sacopee Valley Coach Jamie Stacey wonders if the devices could create a disparity between teams because of the expense.

“There are too many questions for me to be for it,” he said. “Like the cost, is each school going to individually have to pay for their own devices, and the programs that are doing well financially, is that going to give them an advantage when they play a team that is at a disadvantage financially? There are a lot of questions like that. Is it going to create an uneven playing field?”

Falmouth coach Mike D’Andrea said he feels the technology should make games faster, but could also lessen a catcher’s impact on the game and development as a player.

“Is the catcher going to be able to call a game? Right now, I have a catcher that I trust, he calls a good game,” said D’Andrea, who estimated he had Hendry call 80% of the team’s pitches. “Will this eliminate that? Will it eliminate the growth of a young man learning how to call an effective baseball game?”

Lariviere said he hopes teams, even if the devices get approved in Maine, don’t move away from letting catchers call pitches. Lariviere called pitches this year with a freshman catcher but let senior Nic Frink call them the year before.

“I hope not. At a certain point, that’s part of that position,” he said. “I like the catcher to be involved in the game, and if I have confidence in them calling pitches, I would prefer them to do it. It’s more succinct, it’s quicker, and (the catcher and pitcher) develop a chemistry between them, too.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: