Technological advances have made baseball an entirely new game. The sport’s been America’s pastime for much of its history, but it’s come a long way since its inception. New technologies have changed the game since the 1850s, and they continue to revolutionize it today.
Baseball may be an old game, but it’s certainly not outdated. In fact, it’s one of the most technologically advanced sports out there. Major League Baseball is wholeheartedly committed to improving the experience for both fans and players with the help of technology.
America is an increasingly high-tech nation, and the same is true of its national pastime. Here are eight ways technology is changing baseball.
1. Pitch Analysis
In the early days of baseball, pitchers would typically throw 80 to 89 mph fastballs, while today’s pitchers often throw upwards of 90 mph. Players have the technology to thank for this improvement. With more varied and accurate ways of analyzing pitches, players will continue to improve.
One of the most common ways of gathering pitch data is with advanced video cameras. Almost all Major League teams use a tracking system called Rapsodo that combines video with radar to measure data from the ball. Rapsodo can offer insights about speed, spin, and launch angle to help players and coaches see where they can develop.
Other systems track pitchers’ body mechanics. From vests loaded with sensors to motion-tracking cameras, new gear can show players how to improve their form.
2. VR Training
Virtual reality (VR) is disrupting the entertainment industry, but it has a lot of potential for athletes as well. By bringing players into a controllable virtual world, VR can increase the effectiveness of practice.
Traditional practices help develop specific skills, but sometimes players have trouble translating the things they learned in training into a real game. When you step outside of the relative comfort of practice, it can be challenging to apply what you’ve learned. VR can help change that.
Using VR technology, coaches can insert players into an immersive virtual game. This immersion makes it feel more like a real match, helping players prepare more effectively.
3. High-Tech Batting Cages
Batting cages have been around for a while, but like baseball itself, they’re far more advanced today. Modern batting cages are more varied and more functional, offering solutions to players of all levels.
Teams can fit batting cages into virtually any space. With modern designs, trainers can set one up quickly and effortlessly in a gym, ballpark or any other kind of facility. This convenience allows players to practice their swing wherever they are, even during a game.
These areas allow coaches and players to use tracking technology more effectively. Repetition within a controlled environment enables tech like cameras and sensors to work with greater accuracy and minimal expense.
4. Increased Safety
While not a full-contact sport, baseball can be dangerous. A ball flying at over 90 mph could seriously injure a player if it hits them. However, league commissioners also have to consider the impact extensive safety measures could have on performance.
Player safety is a top concern, but too much protective gear could inhibit their movement and affect the game. Modern technology has allowed for the creation of equipment that is both safe and unrestrictive. On top of improved padding for catchers and better helmets for batters, companies are starting to make protective headwear for pitchers too.
These helmets are sleek and lightweight so they don’t feel cumbersome on a pitcher’s head. More importantly, they offer protection that wasn’t previously available.
5. In-Game Data Gathering
New devices don’t just allow teams to gather performance data in practice — they can work in-game, as well. Much like the radar and camera systems used in training, tracking technology like Statcast can measure pitches and swings in real-time. Statcast doesn’t intrude on the field, allowing stadiums to use it during an actual game.
Being able to track this data in-game doesn’t just help players, but it provides for more entertaining audience experiences. All 30 Major League ballparks currently use Statcast to capture compelling and relevant stats and then display them to the audience. This technology brings fans closer to the game than ever before.
Not all technological advances in baseball seek to serve the players. New broadcasting technologies and services allow fans to enjoy the game from wherever they may be. The TV was revolutionary in bringing baseball games to remote audiences, but traditional broadcasting is becoming a thing of the past.
Thanks to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, more people have abandoned cable TV. This trend has saved money and increased convenience for many people, but without live TV, fans may have trouble seeing their favorite teams play. Baseball-oriented live streaming services have helped fix this issue.
MLB.TV and other streaming sites let audiences watch baseball games in real-time without needing a cable subscription or even a TV. It’s made it possible to watch live sports in an era of cord-cutting.
7. Immersive VR Experiences
Players can use VR to improve their practices, but audiences can also use the technology to get closer to the action. There are several VR experiences available to fans that provide a whole new level of immersion. With VR headsets, people can feel like they’re at the ballpark from the comfort of their couch or view home run competitions in 360 degrees.
Some parks have even started providing VR experiences in the stadiums themselves. Fans can use these headsets to see the game from the perspective of the dugout or on the field.
8. Monitoring Player Health
On top of protecting players in-game, new technology is helping them monitor their health throughout the season. Wearable bio-trackers can provide trainers with data about players’ sleep cycles, recovery, and exertion. These insights can help teams make the most out of their workouts and physical therapy, but also raises some ethical questions.
You could argue that data like sleep patterns is private information that teams can’t solicit from players. With advancing measurement systems like this, questions about what data belongs to who become all the more relevant. Like any field, baseball will have to change to adapt to the innovations that come along.
Old Sport, New Advances
These technological advancements have made baseball safer and more interactive than ever before. Who knows what the future may hold for this traditional American pastime. In all likelihood, it will be amazing.
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