CLEVELAND -- Drones have changed the landscape of videography, being able to capture scenes and moments that a typical hand-held camera can't replicate. Similar to the way these small aircrafts are used to fly over golf courses, giving aerial views of each hole, Major League Baseball decided to test them out at Progressive Field leading up to the All-Star break.
And who better to call in for drone help in Cleveland than Trevor Bauer?
As the final countdown before the Midsummer Classic began in Northeast Ohio, Bauer and a few drone experts joined Major League Baseball at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario to get footage of the home of the 2019 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
Bauer strapped on his goggles, a piece of a headwear that allows you to watch through the eyes of the camera attached to the drone, and raced his machine a few feet above the bases, mimicking what a baseball player would see as he hustles down the line.
Yes, Bauer has had quite the history with one of his favorite hobbies, but that hasn’t prevented him from spending about two days per homestand out in different areas around Cleveland to fly his drones.
“I started out as a big "Star Wars" fan growing up and the speeder scene, like racing through Endor,” Bauer said. “I was all about it. Then Episode I came out with pod racing and I wanted to be a pod racer. Then I wanted to fly military jets because that was the closest thing that actually existed.”
It wasn’t until 2014 that Bauer found a way to feel like he was in one of his favorite movies after finding a video of people racing drones through a forest in France.
“When they showed the footage, this is exactly what Endor looks like,” Bauer said. “I have to do that. Then I just taught myself how to do it.”
It was an activity that developed an unlikely friendship between Bauer and a member of the Minnesota media from NBC Sports Radio, Jacob Blaeser. Blaeser also worked part-time for Airvūz, the world’s leading drone video and photography sharing platform, and was wearing a T-shirt with the company’s name on it when he walked into the Indians' clubhouse at Target Field in 2016.
“He [Bauer] said, ‘Hey, you know Airvūz?’” Blaeser said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I work for them. I do marketing for them.' And he’s like, ‘Want to go fly drones next time I’m in town?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure, why not?’”
Now, three years later, every time Bauer makes a trip to Minnesota when the Indians play the Twins, the two go out to different parks in the area to fly drones.
“Not pitching days. He won’t even talk about the drones the days he pitches,” Blaeser said. “I’ve flown with the top droners in the world and Trevor’s top five, top 10 I’ve ever flown with. I’m sure the engineering background that he has all adds into it. But he’s super talented.”
But this time was different for Bauer and Blaeser. Instead of flying around Minneapolis, the two were able to fly their racing and camera drones inside Progressive Field, helping MLB capture the path of Jim Thome’s 511-foot blast, or what it looked like to be Tyler Naquin racing around the bases on his walk-off inside-the-park home run.
“It’s awesome,” Blaeser said of the experience to be flying inside the ballpark. “And this will hopefully open the door for something like the good side of drones. I hope someone won’t see this and then try to fly something over Progressive Field that doesn’t know what they’re doing.
“There’s so many other fields around that I don’t know that I assume are just as cool, that have cool features. Like, I didn’t know Heritage Park until now. Every park has a really cool feature that a ground camera really can’t get everything. I hope it opens the door for stuff like that. It sounds like they will present this during All-Star weekend, so I hope a lot of people will jump on board.”