The World Series 2019: The Technology of Baseball

The World Series 2019: The Technology of Baseball

Phoenix SemiSister Kate Roe prefers low-tech baseball. To date, she has visited 11 Major League Ballparks.

I’m a huge baseball fan. And while my favorite team, the Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t even make it into the playoffs, it doesn’t mean I’m not glued to my MLB app to keep track of the World Series. I LOVE IT!  ALL OF IT!  The plays, the jockeying for position, the fans, the sportsmanship, the energy – it fascinates me, and there is so much to experience!

When most people think of baseball they think of a ball and a stick – which in essence, it really is. There are bags to hit while running and gloves to catch the ball; teams wear matching uniforms. In general, it’s pretty basic. But when you look closer, you can see that technology is all over baseball, especially these days. The radar gun is completely automated, and the men and women using them are completely outfitted with technology that tracks all the data they need: phones, laptops, calculators, the aforementioned MLB app… But I still get a kick out of watching someone write numbers in a scorebook with a pen and paper because if you think about it, that was how it all really started.

Enter the Human Brain

In the early days of baseball, today’s technology today did not exist, and scores and stats had to be kept manually.  Henry Chadwick was a sportswriter back in his day in the 1800s and is generally credited with creating the scorekeeping/stats that are used today.

Fun fact – I know how to keep an extremely detailed scorebook!  I learned in high school, because the coach taught me how, as there was no other way for him to keep track of what was going on during the game. This provided him with all the numbers and stats he needed to do his job. This was in the days before they videotaped the games and practices (did I just date myself?)

Obviously, things evolved and changed, but the basics are still the same. It amazes me is that there is still no set “standard” for keeping a scorebook – everyone does it differently and no way is wrong. In the end, the same story is told, no matter who writes it.

Enter the Age of Technology

Fast forward 100 years or so, and now technology surrounds ballparks; everything from the lights, retractable roofs, turf, and dirt, and air conditioning, to radar guns, instant replay/video review, pitching and hitting monitors that use metrics to train athletes better, and the Stat Cast, which uses high tech cameras placed all over the ballpark to give fans watching live  immediate relevant numbers and stats!  That’s not all. Live social media feeds, phones, calculators, tablets, and laptops enhance fan involvement. Some places even offer virtual reality experiences for the fans!

In some ways, all this technology is fascinating. It blows my mind that as soon as the ball hits somewhere, a number pops up immediately on my TV telling me how far it went.  Or if I’m at the ballpark, it pops up on the jumbotron. When a ball is pitched or when the bat strikes it, we know right away how fast it was going. Fans can rally their team by turning on the lights of their phones – harken back to the days of lighters at concerts (am I dating myself again?); or shoot off a live social media post.  It’s all instantaneous!  And all because of technology.  It’s pretty cool if you stop and think about it.

Then again… for years fans survived without all this technology, perfectly happy to enjoy the game with a hot dog and cold beer on a sunny summer afternoon. Evolution, however, was inevitable. The first stadium lights were installed in 1935 and he first night game ever was played between the Reds and Philly’s on May 24, 1935.  In 1989, the Blue Jay’s SkyDome in Toronto was the first stadium to have a fully retractable roof (currently 6 of 30 ballparks have retractable roofs). In 2014, WiFi was installed at 103-year-old Wrigley Field.

I guess what I’m saying is, appreciate the advancing technology of baseball and the amazing aspects of it when you watch the World Series this year – whether its in-person live or via TV or tablet.  But remember that in the end, as long as there is a hot dog, a beer, you are with people you care about, what more do you need?  You really don’t “have” to tweet about it. That’s the beauty of baseball: No technology needed.