On Wednesday, March 29, Major League Baseball took another step forward into the 21st Century by announcing that they would be making Apple iPads available to all 30 teams.
According to MLB.com, the iPads will allow all players, coaches, and managers access to “advance-scouting video and customizable reports.” By developing the MLB Dugout App, Apple is now providing real-time access to data and analytics that have never before been available in a Major League dugout.
While the utilization of the iPads or the MLB Dugout App will not be required of the coaches and players, it is, of course, a safe bet that most will be availing themselves of this technology during the 2016 campaign.
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In many respects, this is a long overdue move by Major League Baseball. After all, other professional sports already utilize modern technology to better facilitate communication and decision-making. One need only look to the National Football League to see how real-time data can improve playcalling and strategy during the course of the game. Now instead of coaches flipping through large binders, they will be able to find whatever they need via this App.
While there will be inevitable hiccups and glitches that will come with the full-scale unveiling of this new technology, it is expected that the iPads and the App will soon find a comfortable home in dugouts across the country. However, as we begin to make sense of this brave new world that Major League Baseball is entering into, there are a few questions that arise.
As we know, iPads and numerous baseball related applications have been around for a while now. Undoubtedly many fans can conjure up stories of finding no other way to follow a game than “watching” an App update the boxscore and play-by-play. While there is no doubt that the MLB Dugout App is far more advanced than anything the average fan has access to, it does beg the question, “What is MLB attempting to gain by rolling out this new creation now?”
What About The Fans?
Now that the players and managers will have access to all of this real-time information, we must wonder if the average fan will be able to gain access to some form of the same information. Imagine if the fan, who has paid a considerable amount of money to attend a game, could sit in the stands and see just how a particular pitcher matches up with a batter. This would undoubtedly enhance conversation in the stands and just might promote more fans to be engaged in the action on the field. Major League Baseball has made no secret in recent years that it is trying every possible way to stay connected with a younger and much more technology savvy fanbase and it is easy to see how many fans would find such an App very appealing.
Remembering that Major League Baseball still requires coaches to speak with their pitchers on the mound instead of through a headset and that pitching coaches still call the bullpens via antiquated telephones we cannot help but wonder what will be in the next wave of innovation. While many may chide MLB for some of these outdated practices, this is also what makes baseball so relatable and unique. Baseball, more than any other sport, still has a way of taking us back to the past. So now that we have instant replay for the umpires and iPads for the managers, we cannot help but wonder what is next. Will we soon see headsets embedded into the helmets of catchers or will MLB soon allow text messaging to take place between the bullpen and the dugout? Are hand signals from coaches soon to fall by the wayside?
At the end of the day, this is a move that makes sense for Major League Baseball. As technology continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to see how MLB evolves with it.