These Three Tech Trends are Quickly Changing Major League Baseball for Fans and Players
You wouldn’t know it by recent measures, but Major League Baseball (MLB) and technology haven’t always seen eye to eye. As North America’s oldest continuous team sports league– MLB was founded in 1869–and the highest professional rank of the national pastime, MLB long resisted the tech advances adopted by other sports.
That all changed in the early 2000s with the onset of the Moneyball era and the development of sabermetrics. Today, MLB adopts new technology at an unprecedented rate. Tech trends are responsible for bringing baseball fully into the 21st century.
As we’ll see, much of the tech deployed by MLB is aimed at driving fan engagement. Here are three ways technology is changing the face of professional baseball as we know it.
Advanced data collection offers unparalleled insights
MLB’s dive into big data has signaled the need for new and novel ways to collect information.
Both those on the field and in the stands are dependent on baseball’s deep well of data. Teams turn to data for player development, injury prevention, and strategizing against opponents. Fans leverage it for fantasy league analysis.
KinaTrax offers a prime example of how MLB is using next-generation technology for data collection. This 3D modeling system consists of 8 to 16 synchronized video cameras placed along the first base and third base lines. The cameras are charged with capturing every micro-movement of a pitcher and hitter.
KinaTrax processes the video footage using artificial intelligence to produce 3D positional and rotational visuals for every joint in the bodies of the pitcher and hitter. Teams can use the data to identify small shifts in mechanics that might impede performance or cause injury.
Four big league clubs have deployed KinaTrax, including the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
Mobile apps heighten the fan experience at home and the ballpark
MLB delivers engaging fan experiences right to fans’ mobile devices with two official apps–MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark.
At Bat provides the basics you would expect from a pro baseball app like live scores and game data from around the league. However, what really shines is the depth of content that could only come from MLB. Users get unlimited access to video archives, advanced statistics, historical news reports, radio broadcasts, and more.
The app’s premium subscription service ($2.99 per month or $19.99 per year) boasts live streams of games with closed captioning and rewind capability.
At Bat also offers Spanish language support and games in Latin American countries where baseball enjoys a large audience.
MLB Ballpark is a must-have companion when fans attend a game at one of the league’s 30 venues.
This app integrates the game-going experience with features like digital ticketing, mobile check-in, personalized content, and food and beverage orders. MLB Ballpark users are eligible for seat upgrades and exclusive activities on game day.
Fans engage with fantasy baseball and sports betting
The options baseball fans have to become part of the game have skyrocketed in recent years. This trend is particularly evident in the rising number of fantasy MLB players and a growth in online sites accepting baseball betting picks.
Fantasy baseball, which began as a curiosity among sports journalists and die-hard fans in the early 1980s, has seen a surge of interest over the past decade.
Today, an estimated 23.5 million fans in the US participate in fantasy baseball, and it’s the second most-played fantasy sport next to football. The game’s growth can be attributed to the rise of organized leagues online and the advanced statistics boom.
Similarly, baseball is a fast-growing component of sports betting in the US. A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in 2018 opened the door for the expansion of sports betting to states outside of Nevada.
In just two years, betting markets have opened in 16 states with a handful of others preparing to launch soon. Through February 2020, Americans had wagered over $25.5 billion at US sportsbooks with a significant amount stemming from baseball.