On Wednesday, the Hall of Fame, the IMAX Corporation and MLB Advanced Media, in partnership with Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and Creative Artists Agency, announced the development of a cutting-edge interactive traveling road show of baseball history that will make stops in baseball towns big and small all over the country beginning in the spring of 2016.
The announcement of the tour, which will be put on by Grand Slam Productions, was made in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Hall of Fame.
"I just want to say how incredibly poignant today is and how special it is to be announcing this phenomenal baseball experience that we're going to embark on," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said on a conference call with media members on Wednesday afternoon.
"We have the opportunity to have a lasting impact on American society by going to every Major League city, Minor League cities and Spring Training cities to take baseball to the fans in a completely immersive way where they can experience baseball like never before."
The plan is for the road show to be a collaborative effort using the strengths of each partner to create something fresh, distinctive and unforgettable while submerging fans deeply into the past, present and future of the game.
IMAX, for example, will produce a 15- to 20-minute film that will serve as a first pitch for the experience. The IMAX film will be shown in a first-of-its-kind "mobile theater" that will be set up and taken down at each location.
"Hopefully there's going to be lots of ducking and grabbing -- the IMAX experience that's unique and you can't get anywhere else," said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment. "We want it to be for baseball fans and people who aren't baseball fans, perhaps, but want to become one."
After the film, fans can meander through a group of trucks that will feature curated artifacts from the Hall itself and interactive features developed with some of the groundbreaking technology cultivated by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the online arm of Major League Baseball that produces MLB.com.
There will be digital photo opportunities for fans to make their own baseball cards and share them via social media. There will be 3-D scientific breakdowns of the different pitches. There will be digital-imaging features that allow fans to see what it's like to stand in the batter's box and face Clayton Kershaw's 93 mph fastball and leg-jellying curve. Fans also can take "virtual batting practice" at the ballpark of their choice and go up against their favorite Hall of Fame pitchers, with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine just added to the mix as 2014 inductees.
Using MLBAM's Player Tracking technology from throughout history, fans can virtually "dress up" as Rickey Henderson or Mike Trout and try to steal a base while beating out a throw from Johnny Bench, Pudge Rodriguez or Salvy Perez.
"What we're looking forward to with the player tracking is watching the greats of yesteryear, figuring out things like how fast the ball comes off the bat, how fast Willie Mays ran when he made his famous catch [in the 1954 World Series], the distance he covered," MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman said.
"We believe the player tracking tech we've developed and putting into stadiums is a natural fit for this. … We're looking forward to developing that with these great partnerships."
A big part of the Hall of Fame on wheels concept will be localization. The exhibits will be catered to each city, with focus on the Red Sox in Boston, the Yankees and Mets in New York, and the rest of the big league teams in their home markets. Former and current players and franchise icons and Hall of Famers from these cities will show up during each two- to three-week exhibit run to get in on the excitement and meet with fans.
The plan right now is for 11 stops in 2016, with the tour starting in either Arizona or Florida at a Spring Training site and then spending two or three weeks in each of 10 Major League cities. This will be repeated for two more years until all 30 Major League markets are visited, and the following three years, or "Phase 2," will revisit big league cities of high demand, plus large Minor League markets.
There's still a lot to be done, but with the advancements we've seen in technology over the past five years alone, the exhibit figures to be even more innovative when it starts.
"It'll be great," Foster said. "It will be a very honest and logically focused look at what baseball has been, what it is today and what it will become."