Technological updates for season revealed

July 21st, 2020

After plenty of conversation surrounding what we won’t see on Opening Day -- from fans in attendance to familiar postgame handshakes -- Major League Baseball delivered a welcome changeup on Monday, with news that the national pastime in 2020 will feature more technology, inside and outside ballparks, than ever before.

MLB officials hosted a virtual Tech Showcase to reveal new details of the league’s initiatives in fan engagement, broadcast enhancements and game tracking through innovations to Statcast powered by Google Cloud.

Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president, strategy, technology & innovation, said during the presentation that many of the improvements serve the dual purpose of bringing the game presentation closer to fans and engaging in new ways with younger generations.

Among the highlights:

• Fans can utilize the “Cheer at the Ballpark” feature at, allowing users to communicate their roars, applause, or boos to stadium staff at games they’re watching; those emotions will be incorporated into decisions by sound engineers regarding the piped-in ballpark sounds that will be added to the ambiance of every Major League game.

• MLB is rolling out multiple gaming platforms for use before and during games, including Rally, to predict the outcome of a plate appearance in real time; and Rally Quick Pitch, to register pregame predictions. Leaderboards will be maintained to track which fans are most adept at forecasting outcomes. Cash prizes are included, as is the case with the Opening Day Pick ‘Em, which was launched recently at

“We think of them as a portfolio of fun, engaging games for fans to self-select,” said Vasanth Williams, MLB’s executive vice president and chief product officer.

• MLB’s instant replay and Statcast technologies have undergone comprehensive refreshes for the first time, which should narrow the time of each replay challenge and result in enhanced broadcasting experiences for viewers. For example, with the new data collection by Sony Hawk-Eye cameras and storage on Google Cloud, pitch locations can be tracked to an accuracy of one-tenth of an inch.

Jason Gaedtke, MLB’s chief technology officer, said Hawk-Eye incorporates LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, similar to the type used in autonomous vehicles. The position and movements of everyone on the field -- from pitchers to baserunners to umpires -- will be updated 30 times per second at 18 different data points on each person.

Teams -- and fans -- have never had so much information about what’s happening at each fraction of a second during every play.

“We have to provide very high reliability, very high accuracy, in order to support the game,” Gaedtke said.

Williams unveiled a number of advancements geared toward tech-savvy fans. On Sept. 3, the league plans to launch MLB FilmRoom at, with a catalog of more than 3 million videos that users can curate into personalized playlists and post to social media.

MLB’s vast database includes pitch-by-pitch videos from the 2018 and '19 seasons, along with decades of popular clips. Because's video trove is open already, video-related visits to increased 105 percent in the first phase of the rollout earlier this year -- even without new games occurring.

Williams also discussed personalization options launching Aug. 4 that will enable fans to customize their MLB app interface to show the scoreboards and schedules of their favorite teams. MLB’s goal is for fans to access multiple features synchronously -- across, MLB.TV and the MLB and Ballpark apps -- with a single log in, Williams said.

MLB’s improved technical abilities also will be evident in the gaming space, as Gaedtke said the league is making efforts to minimize latency in apps and keep the prediction prompts in sync with the game action. MLB apps will not include sports gambling options, as those activities are made available by individual providers and regulated on a state-by-state basis.

With prohibitions on large crowds in effect for communities across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB is working creatively to keep fans connected to their favorite teams. Clubs are implementing their own approaches to the “Put Me in the Park” campaign, including cardboard cutouts placed in the crowd, as well as engagements in Augmented Reality through Snapchat.

In one fascinating way, fans are about to enjoy a perspective they’ve never had before: Ryan Zander, MLB’s vice president, broadcast products & services, said the Statcast data and LIDAR scans allow for broadcast enhancements showing the virtual representation of a key moment from the perspective of a defensive player -- or even the baseball itself.

Baseball’s technological advancements will have direct effects on players, managers and coaches during games. The reimagined instant replay system incorporates feeds from 48 channels -- an increase from 18 in the prior system -- including the direct collection of images from high-frame-rate cameras. With the improved technology, managers have 20 seconds to decide whether to challenge a play, down from 30 seconds last year.

Social distancing considerations have prompted MLB to prohibit video viewing at clubhouse computer terminals. Instead, players and coaches will have access to iPads with video loaded before games. The iPads -- which are not connected to the internet -- will be assigned on a personal basis or sanitized between uses if they are shared.

Marinak said MLB will work to ensure technology capability is as “consistent as possible” for the Toronto Blue Jays if they must play home games at a Minor League stadium following the Canadian government’s rejection of an application to play games at Rogers Centre during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, broadcasters calling games from remote locations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions are certain to appreciate the new high home cameras, which will survey the field from a wide angle with 4K resolution.