How Technology Is Changing Baseball

Posted: Nov 18 2019, 11:33am CST | by , in Technology News

 

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How Technology Is Changing Baseball

From advanced metrics to stealing signs, technology is having a huge impact on baseball.

Baseball is America's pastime. The first recorded game took place in 1846, but it didn't look anything like what we know and love today. It started out as a series of amateur leagues that eventually developed into a professional association that had 13 teams in 1875. Today, there are 30 major league baseball teams spread across two leagues, as well as 256 minor league teams, and technology has changed the way we play the game. Here are some of the ways baseball has improved, thanks to tech.

A Different Type of Baseball

If you saw an original baseball, you probably wouldn't recognize it. They used to be made of a rubber core — usually melted from an old pair of shoes — wrapped in yarn and then in leather. There was no standardization for baseball creation, so they could vary dramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer. No two baseballs were ever alike.

Today, baseballs have cork cores, wrapped in two layers of rubber, then yarn and horse or cowhide. Each ball is standardized at 9 inches in diameter and either 5 or 5 and 1/4 ounces in weight. They've been in the news lately for being even "faster" than before, which means more home runs.

PITCHf/x System

Before 2006, gathering pitch data was something that required a lot of extra equipment and wasn't usually done during games. Fans and officials could estimate the speed of a pitch by calculating how long it took to travel from the pitcher's mound to the plate — a fixed distance. For more accurate measurements, officials used radar guns similar to the ones police officers use to determine how fast a vehicle is moving. While useful, this isn't always the most accurate way to assess the speed of pitches, and it doesn't allow for the analysis of the throw itself.

Advances in camera technology changed that, and allowed engineers to come up with the PITCHf/x system that's been part of MLB stadiums since 2006. Cameras are used to track velocity, movement and the ball's release point, in addition to things like its spin and pitch location. Every single pitch is recorded and analyzed, something that wasn't possible before PITCHf/x's technology.

Upgraded Batting Cages

Batting cages were invented in 1907 by a man named Wellington Titus because, as a catcher for his local baseball team, he got tired of chasing down foul balls during practice. That year, he signed a contract with A.G. Spalding and Brothers to mass-produce these "baseball backstops" to make the game easier for catchers everywhere.

Even batting cages aren't immune to technological upgrades, both for amateur baseball players and professionals. These cages need to be flexible enough to catch baseballs and softballs, but strong enough to stand up to the power behind a home run hit.

New Gloves

If you played baseball in the early 1900s, using a glove was a sign of weakness. Of course, the pitches were slower and the balls were softer, so you didn't need a leather glove to protect your hands. The first gloves weren't designed to catch baseballs — instead, they were created to knock the balls out of air. Even the catcher's mitts were nothing more than a glove with a leather pillow on the palm.

Today, there are different baseball gloves for every position on the field. Infielder gloves are designed for quick ball retrieval, while outfield gloves are larger and designed to help the players pluck fly balls out of the air. Pitchers and shortstops can carry different gloves, designed for everything from flexibility to protection and quick ball retrieval.

Technology Continues to Advance

Technology has changed the way we do everything in baseball, from the balls that we throw to the gloves we use to catch them. Even the batting cages that we practice in aren't immune to progress, using upgraded materials to provide the best batting experience possible. Technology might offer us new tools in the future for tracking statistics, catching home run balls and more, but the chances are pretty high that we've peaked when it comes to baseball technology. If we go much further, we won't even need players anymore.

Still, technology has made it easier for us to enjoy the game of baseball, whether we're on the field, in the stands, or at home watching the game on television.

This story may contain affiliate links.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.

 

 

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