SBJ/March 13-19, 2017/Technology

Video replays may be on way to dugouts

Video replays could be coming to MLB dugouts this season as part of MLB’s newly revised instant replay rules.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association this month announced new measures to further the sport’s push to improve pace of play. Among them was a new 30-second limit for managers to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke replay review. To make that new time limit work, MLB Advanced Media is testing whether video can be shifted to tablets used by managers in the dugout.

If workable, the video replays would become a new component of the customized, pro-level version of the At Bat mobile application MLBAM developed for dugout use on tablets beginning last year. The tablets have not had any wireless connectivity during games and have been used for primarily scouting and compiling statistics.

Under MLB’s instant replay system thus far, managers have typically communicated by phone with a video coordinator located either behind the dugout or elsewhere in the clubhouse to help determine whether to challenge a play. MLBAM’s review of all 30 ballparks is focused in part on whether the wireless data networks at each facility are sufficient to handle the additional video consumption, and that each team can fairly access the video. A decision on whether the dugout video will happen could arrive in time for next month’s Opening Day. But industry sources cautioned that is not a firm deadline, and the review will extend further into the spring if necessary.

The dugout video, if included, will not be live, to avoid potential competitive integrity issues, such as using live video to steal signs.

Pace of play has been a priority of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Other recently approved rules changes include a no-pitch intentional walk, and a conditional two-minute guideline for MLB replay officials to complete a review on a play and render a decision.

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