Figure 1 Baseball has been forever changed by technology
At first glance, baseball is a sport that seems to have hardly changed since the early days of the first organized leagues. America’s pastime has always reveled in the nostalgia for the game, with the love of baseball being handed down from parent to child, and so on.
But even with such a simple sport, there have been a number of changes made over the years. With the advances made in technology, the players, teams, and even the fans, have benefitted from the sport continually updating. At its core, it is still one guy pitching to another – a game of bat and ball. But there is so much more going on behind the scenes these days, especially in Major League Baseball.
We all know about the rise in popularity of MLB betting online. But there are other ways the league and teams have interacted with their fans. The players are also using technology to improve their game and push forward the sport. There may not be anything better than a sunny day and the sound of a ball being hit out of a ballpark – but technology is definitely changing the game.
It is not a technological advance that is exclusive to baseball, but the use of wearable tech to improve the players has been very popular for every team in the league. GPS trackers, heart monitors and smartwatches are able to keep track of players’ health and identify areas that can be worked on.
This technology can be implemented on the training field but also relay data in real time when game day comes around as well. The data can be analyzed by professionals at all ball clubs to find the smallest details to improve performance. With the difference between success and failure being such a fine line, even the tiniest improvement could have a huge impact.
Pitchf/x and Statcast
As with any sport, baseball has also developed its own specific technology to help with player performance and fan appreciation. Pitchf/x has actually been around since 2006 and measures the spin, velocity and movement of every single pitch at every MLB ballpark. That information can then be used by the coaches and players.
Statcast is a very similar piece of technology. High-speed cameras and radar technology provide the data that can identify strengths and weaknesses in opponents, allowing coaches to use stats to get their point across. Even the officials can use the data to improve their calls.
Conforming with its stereotype as an old-fashioned game, Major League Baseball was among the last of the four professional leagues to implement instant replay review systems – debuting for the first time at Tropicana Field during 2008 when A-Rod’s home run call stood.
As with any technology brought in to help officiating, there has been some controversy and criticism. But the accuracy of the calls on the field has improved and the way that the league has amended the video replay review rules over the years shows that lessons can be learned all the time.
Virtual reality (VR) has quickly taken the world by storm in recent years; but baseball clubs have long employed VR for both player use and fan enjoyment. VR offers fans in the stands an unprecedented glimpse into what the action looks like on the diamond, on the mound or from within the dugout – as well as giving an authentic representation of baseball action at every game they attend.
For the players, virtual reality has proved to be an unrivalled training tool. Batters can discover how to play against particular pitchers without having to stand in the firing line and risk injury. It can be used the other way as well, with pitchers figuring out how to play against the big hitters.
Figure 2 Innovative technology has been able to help with training
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that has been used a lot in a variety of different industries in the past few years – and baseball is not exempt from using technology to connect everything for the optimum experience. It can be used to offer fans interactive activities, but there are more practical benefits too.
By using high-speed internet and innovative technology, ball clubs can look after their fans in a better way. Potential crowding problems, or even long lines at the food kiosks, can be avoided. Streamline ticketing tech can speed up entering and exiting ballparks and make for a much more enjoyable – and safer – day out.
We have already shown how technology has been able to improve the game for the players and the teams but it is really the fans that benefit the most. Whether it is by watching improved athletes play the game they love, or just the trip to the ballpark being enhanced, the fans are definitely winning.
Even the rise of online sports betting has offered fans even more information about their heroes. Baseball was always a sport for those in love with stats, but the information provided for betting on the game has now taken that to a whole new level. With so many other ways that MLB has engaged with the fans through technology, it could be argued that the sport is now actually leading the way.
The Future of Baseball Technology
We have come a long way since electronic scoreboards and even video replays were revolutionizing the Major League Baseball experience. But, as technology advances still further, the experience for everyone involved with the sport will be even more enhanced.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the latest buzzword in technology – and its implementation in baseball can help teams rehabilitate injured players more quickly, assist officials, and help grow baseball inside and outside of the ballpark. The fans may not always immediately embrace technological change – but it has been a huge positive for baseball, and will continue to be so.