Apple and Major League Baseball have entered into a multi-year agreement in which every team will be given iPad Pro tablets loaded with analytics and other stuff to be used in-game, in dugouts, The Wall Street Journal reports. This corresponds with MLB’s lifting of a ban on using laptops, tablets and smartphones in dugouts.
In addition to any number of analytical tools, spray charts and the like, the iPads will have video so a hitter will be able to, for example, watch video of a pitcher he is about to face without having to go back into the clubhouse. This is convenient for teams and Rob Manfred touts it as a means of speeding up games (eh, sure, OK). It’s also quite convenient for Apple, which will no doubt benefit from lots of live TV footage of the sports’ biggest stars using iPads in the middle of games. In this, the Wall Street Journal notes, it’s sort of like the NFL’s adoption of Microsoft Surface tablets on sidelines. Except this time, when broadcasters make note of the devices, calling them “iPads” will actually be accurate.
Use of the iPads will be optional — from the players’ and coaches’ point of view it’s a tool, not merely a forced product placement — but given that clubs will be able to load these things up with their own proprietary analytics you can expect pretty wide adoption. People like to stereotype managers and coaches as old crusty types who, at best, use a binder, but not a single one of them doesn’t have a smart phone on them all dang day when they’re not in the dugout. Indeed, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen one of them texting somebody from the bat at the Winter Meetings. It’s like watching your uncle play Bejeweled Blitz.
Anyway, this is pretty cool. Both for baseball and for people like me. Because despite this innovation, and despite an extended quote from Rob Manfred in the article about the predominance of technology and analytics in the game and how they “affect the way we judge players, make decisions on the field and the way fans consume the game,” this will no doubt lead to some columnist or broadcaster to talk about how bad and wrong this development is, complete with the words “new-fangled” and references to how so-and-so old timer didn’t need an iPad to hit a breaking ball.
Yep, it’s gonna be glorious.