Dodgers embracing the use of baseball apps

Dodgers embracing the use of baseball apps

Dodgers embracing the use of baseball apps
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The late Apple founder Steve Jobs and current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are making an impact on the Dodgers' clubhouse, where technology is having a growth spurt.

In nearly every locker is an iPad, and loaded onto many of them is an application marketed by Bloomberg Sports that provides players access to game video and the capability to sort and retrieve any combination of game situations almost instantly, 24/7.

Bloomberg's "Sport Pitch Review" is available only to professional ballplayers and at a special rate of $200 a month.

Is it worth it?

"It's the best thing a baseball player can have," said Matt Kemp.

That's a pretty sweet endorsement from the man who was the National League MVP runner-up after posting one of the most remarkable all-around seasons in recent history.

"It's the greatest app ever invented, baseball-wise," said newcomer Dee Gordon. "Instead of having to come here [to access certain technology], I can watch the night before at home, at the hotel. I can watch at-bats against the upcoming team."

An informal survey in the clubhouse revealed that seven of 30 Dodgers are using the app. Clubhouse use of the iPad is at a staggering 90 percent -- 27 of 30 -- although the marketing department at Apple would probably wonder what's wrong with the other three.

The guts of the Bloomberg app really aren't revolutionary when it comes to baseball. For the last two decades, most clubs have employed full-time video technicians who tape, edit and log virtually the same game footage for players and coaches to use.

Clubs such as the Dodgers have built elaborate video viewing rooms in the clubhouse and take the capabilities on the road, often setting up a bank of laptops right in the middle of a visiting clubhouse so hitters and pitchers can go over performances, even during games.

Tony Gwynn Sr. is credited as a trailblazer when it comes to using video, as he lugged recorders on the road and shuttled them from his home to the ballpark each day until the club took up the challenge.

"If Dad had this [app], he might have been on the field even longer than he was," said Tony Gwynn Jr. "He had two recorders at home games and took one on the road. He'd have all at-bats on one video and all hits on another. He did all the editing himself until '93 or '94, when they hired a video guy. He was definitely far ahead of the game electronically. I showed him the Bloomberg app, and he thought it was cool, but his reaction was sort of subdued. I guess he wasn't impressed because he was doing it long ago."

The Bloomberg app is not only intuitive and versatile, it allows players to have video at their fingertips when they are away from the clubhouse, even at 37,000 feet as long as the airplane has wireless connectivity.

"You have the convenience of having all the video at home, so whenever you think of something, you just pop it up on the iPad and you're good to go," said Jerry Hairston.

Two players recently used the app during a pitching change, preparing to pinch-hit by watching video of a new reliever.

A spokesman for Major League Baseball, however, said that current rules prohibit such electronic devices as smart phones and tablets from being used in dugouts during games.

Some players think that rule will eventually change, because technology such as Bloomberg's can be invaluable when it comes to job performance.

"What don't you get out of it? I love it," said Todd Coffey. "You can analyze everything but in the comfort of your home or your locker. It gives you everything you need to look at the hitter coming up.

"You could overuse it, but we are taught muscle memory; this is visual memory. You can watch recent games to see if a guy is hot or cold or if he's struggling with certain pitches. Sometimes it's not important to know what you've done against somebody over your career, but more important what he's done in his last 10 at-bats. I'm willing to bet as guys see you using it, more and more will do it. It's definitely a useful tool. It's not a gimmick program."

And Bloomberg's isn't the only app being downloaded by the Dodgers. On Josh Bard's iPad is "RightView Pro," a video-analysis program founded by former Major Leaguer Don Slaught that uses MLB and professional video to provide instruction on proper swing and pitching motions.

"It's a great product," said Bard. "Instead of guessing what's wrong, you can see what's wrong. If you struggle and you don't know why, it will tell you. Your swing is matched up with successful hitters and compared. It allows you to see your flaws immediately instead of spending a month in a slump."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.