The NFL will no longer be the only major American professional sport that takes advantage of tablets near the field of play. On Tuesday, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told the Wall Street Journal that the league and Apple have signed a multi-year contract that will put iPad Pro tablets into every dugout in order to help coaching staffs with in-game decisions.
Unlike the NFL—which has used Microsoft Surface tablets since 2013 (even though it’s been tough to convince fans and announcers not to call them iPads)—MLB will work with Apple and will be supplied with 12.9-inch iPad Pros that features a custom app called MLB Dugout built by the league’s Advanced Media division and Apple.
“I started in this game 25 years ago and the single biggest change has been the emergence and predominance of analytics,” Manfred told the newspaper. “It affects the way we judge players, make decisions on the field, and the way fans consume the game.”
Like NFL players and coaches who can analyze the opponents and their own team in real time while on the sideline, MLB managers and coaches will have the ability to watch video of previous games, look at stats from the current and past seasons, focus on pitcher-batter matchups, and utilize a host of other analytics data. Instead of hoofing it back to the dugout in order to find this information, teams can manage it directly from the dugout.
“Managers have plans and positions laid out before the game even starts,” Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel told the Journal. “This won’t change that much. But when a relief pitcher comes in, when a pinch hitter comes up, when the game changes in unexpected ways, that’s when it’ll be really useful.”
MLB has been on the forefront of making technology work for its employees and its fans. The league has teamed up with Snapchat to give fans behind-the-scenes action, used GoPro cameras to film a player’s rehab, and sent fans on an Airbnb-sponsored Fenway Park sleepover. It also is, by far, the most popular livestreaming sport in this country.
Though the NFL and Microsoft have a four-year deal worth $400 million, the financial deal between MLB and Apple has not been announced. But unlike the NFL, which mandates its players and coaches use the Surface on the sidelines, use of the dugout iPads will be completely optional.
But as NBC Sports writes, “given that clubs will be able to load these things up with their own proprietary analytics you can expect pretty wide adoption.”