June 28, 2006 3:19 PM PDT

Take tech out to the ball game--sort of

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July 11, 2006

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Another system used by both the Canadians and Dust Devils, and all other minor league teams, for that matter, is the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) in-game box score reporting program.

Essentially, said Andre Beaucage, the Canadians' media relations assistant, he must call into MLBAM at the end of every half inning and report exactly what occurred. The results are then posted immediately onto MinorLeagueBaseball.com.

"If a guy gets hit by a pitch, I have to say what part of the body."
--Andre Beaucage, Canadians' media relations assistant

"It's to feed everyone's hunger for (baseball) information, and they're very particular: If a guy gets hit by a pitch, I have to say what part of the body," said Beaucage. "You can't satisfy people's thirst for baseball stats. It's unquenchable...It may just be a handful of people and players' families following the game, but to those people, it's really important."

For now, however, the teams must call in their reports on the phone. Beaucage hopes that will change soon.

"It would be nice if it was online," he said, "and I'm sure in a few years it probably will be."

Ebert said he thinks the technology exists to let the teams report to MLBAM via the Internet and said it just hasn't happened yet.

"They haven't gotten all the kinks worked out, electronically," Ebert said. "Everybody would have to be using the same system, and that just hasn't happened yet."

Meanwhile, little bits of technology are scattered throughout the teams' ballparks.

For example, the Dust Devils employ a radar gun that records the speed of every pitch thrown. Immediately afterward, the data is sent via a wireless signal to the centerfield scoreboard, which then displays the appropriate number.

In addition, said Ebert, the team's coaches and trainer all submit reports via the Internet after each game to the Rockies about how their players performed. It's not as sophisticated as the A's Hitting Points system, but it does help the Rockies evaluate talent.

During the game, in the Dust Devils Stadium press box, public address announcer Patrick Harvey sits in front of a PC and from that machine controls the sounds and music that play over the ballpark's loudspeaker system.

His software, known as "Game Ops Commander," is a console from which he can choose which song to play when a batter comes to the plate, as well as little sound bites from movies or other media to play in certain game situations.

For example, after a Dust Devils player made a flashy catch early in Tuesday's game, Harvey quickly played a snippet that said, "Look at me, look at me."

The truth is, however, that technology hasn't really made it to the low minors in a big way. And it's clear some involved would like to see that change.

Winslow, for instance, pointed out that he'd had to personally buy the printer he uses to print hitting reports, and complained that the Vancouver ballpark's free wireless Internet isn't available in the clubhouse.

"It doesn't go through the walls of the dungeon," Winslow said, referring to the clubhouse's thick concrete walls. "It's pretty high-tech as far as minor league baseball is concerned, but it's still (like) 1995."

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Baseball vs Technology
At the end of the 90's and in 2000, I worked in the area of software and systems development for MLB teams. I'm not sure of the rules for the dugouts today, but back then the only computing system that was allowed near the dugout was the one that our company developed. There were some video systems that could be in the corridor leading into the dugout, but they couldn't actually be in the dugout. As for wireless, it was strictly forbidden.

Most of these restrictions were born of the fear that the new technologies could/would be used to "steal" signs (the signals between the pitcher and catcher).

Interesting that the writer chose to observe the A's organization. At the time I was working on systems for MLB teams, the A's (in particular their pitching coach) were one of our biggest users.
Posted by CloakedMirror (12 comments )
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Players are using video players for more than music video
I was watching a pre-game show for the Oakland A's about a week ago and they were showing one of the pitchers, I think it was Zito, using his video player. One way he uses it is to study the at bats of the opposing team. The film crew for the A's slices the at bats from the video of each game and then creates small segments for that are uploaded to the pitcher's video player so he can learn about upcoming hitters.
Posted by acurapah (12 comments )
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