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June 27, 2006

iPod baseBall


The June 18 New York Times Sports section featured an Associated Press story about a new iPod application: by major league baseball players studying past performances of their opponents — and themselves — in an effort to gain an edge.

Most still rely on DVDs and laptops for this purpose but that will change.

Here's the article.

    Videotape? It's Passé for iPod Pitchers

    Three hours before a start against Florida, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings sat in front of his locker, put his headphones on and stared at his video iPod.

    He was not watching the latest Coldplay video or catching up on an episode of "Alias" as a way to relax before the game.

    Jennings was doing some last-minute cramming: The Rockies' video staff had downloaded footage of every Marlins hitter into his iPod, and Jennings was studying how to pitch to them. He watched frames of himself delivering the pitch, followed by the result of the play. Everything else was edited out.

    "It's a good way to refresh yourself on how you got guys out," Jennings said. "It's an amazing concept."

    The Rockies have taken the iPod beyond entertainment. And the idea has caught on — teams like the Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners have called the Rockies to explore their innovative use of the iPod.

    "It wasn't like we invented the wheel," said the Rockies assistant video coordinator Brian Jones, who came up with the idea after the video iPod was released last November. "We're using Apple's technology as best we can. We figured if you can watch music videos by rock 'n' roll and by country, why can't you watch at-bats by San Francisco and pitches by Jason Schmidt?"

    Over the past two decades, video has become common throughout the major leagues, as it is with the N.F.L. Teams have an abundance of film to help players study their opponents and their own technique. In the last few years, players have been able to take home DVD's to watch on their laptops.

    Now all that information is in the palm of their hands.

    "They can do it on their time," the Rockies' video coach, Mike Hamilton, said. "They don't have to be here or they don't have to be behind a desk watching a laptop. They can be at home, on the airplane or even in their locker."

    Boston Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin said he wasn't sure the trend was a good one.

    "Improved the game for us pitchers? No," he said, laughing. "There's only so much you can do to get the guys out. These guys have a better idea and a better understanding. You have to rely on your catchers."

    Mets Manager Willie Randolph does not have a problem with a player analyzing video, but it would not have been for him. Randolph, a former All-Star, preferred extra batting practice to extra film sessions.

    "I think it's overrated, personally, but that's just me," Randolph said. "I'm from a different school."

    The Rockies have downloaded video clips into the iPods of 14 players. For the hitters, they will store every at-bat and download performances of upcoming pitchers. A 60-gigabyte iPod, made by Apple Computer, can hold roughly five seasons' worth of a player's at-bats. Pitchers can get all their performances, along with opponents' at-bats.

    Jones has permission to take iPods from players' lockers to update them, and when the Rockies are on the road, he compiles DVD's of their play and loads video onto the iPods when they return home.

    "I take care of it all," Jones said. "It just takes a few minutes. It's like putting a song on from iTunes."

    The club does not buy the iPods for the players. It's a $399 investment for the 60-gigabyte model (the 30-gigabyte version costs $299). The Rockies have, however, purchased iPods for General Manager Dan O'Dowd and several scouts.

    Colorado's minor league hitting coordinator, Jimmy Johnson, has an iPod filled with video of players in the farm system. If a player is struggling, Johnson can compare his swing from the past with his current swing.

    The iPods came in handy before June's baseball draft.

    "That way the scouts could compare a prospective draft pick in North Carolina with one in California," Hamilton said. "You'd have a real good comparison. The game is so visual now. This helps."

    The small screen size — two and a half inches — has not been a problem.

    "Six or seven guys can't sit around and watch it," Hamilton said. "But if you watch it yourself, it's not that much different from watching a large screen."

June 27, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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