Thursday, June 19, 2008

St. Paul Saints brings replay to baseball

The Dugout is not a fan of instant replay in sports. It’s bad for football and would be awful for baseball. Instant replay helps correct some bad calls, which is what made it appealing when it first debuted in the NFL, but it didn’t take long for NFL officials to start overturning calls that were made correctly on the field – decisions exponentially worse than getting a call wrong the first time.

The Dugout also finds merit in the argument that replay removes flow from games.

The biggest problem with replay, though, is that video lies. Seriously. Taking a three-dimensional world and stuffing it into the two-dimensional television box inherently distorts an image. Moving a camera even a few feet away from the goal line can make a football that never reaches the line appear to cross it. It’s happened more than once.

Errors will be repeated in baseball, especially in today’s irregular-shaped parks where shooting in straight lines presents a far greater challenge than it does on a football field.

Baseball doesn’t need to be slowed down by replay, and it doesn’t need umpire’s calls questioned even more than they already are. Leave television out of baseball.

With that rant out of the way, the St. Paul Saints announced today that replay will be available to umpires when they host the American Association's All-Star Game on July 22.

The game will be televised regionally and umpires will have access to feeds from all seven cameras via a videophone carried in the crew chief’s pocket. They will be able to select which camera to view, and control the speed of playback.

By putting the choice to go to replay in the hands of the umpires could keep delays to a minimum. Allowing them to reach into their pocket to see and control all camera angles will give them the best possible – though still not 100 percent accurate – view the play in question.

The Saints partnered with Best Buy Inc. to develop the system. The Dugout spoke with St. Paul executive vice president and general manager Derek Sharrer earlier today and he said the impetus for creation of the system actually grew from an offhand remark by Tony Kornheiser during ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption. Apparently Kornheiser suggested that if Major League Baseball wanted to develop a replay system, they should go shop at Best Buy.

Someone at the Best Buy headquarters, located in the Twin Cities area, heard the remark and contacted the Saints. A short time later they collaborated to design this system.

See, watching PTI can be educational.

Here is the press release issued by St. Paul announcing the introduction of replay:

Best Buy Mobile Builds Professional Baseball’s 1st Instant Replay System for St. Paul Saints

Replay system to be instituted during American Association All-Star Game keeps calls on the field and in umpires’ hands with mobile video solution that costs approximately $1,000 retail

ST. PAUL, MINN. (June 19, 2008) – On July 22, umpires will use instant replay in professional baseball for the first time ever.

While Major League Baseball debates the logistics and timing of replay, Best Buy Mobile will implement a mobile instant replay system with the St. Paul Saints during the American Association’s All Star Game in St. Paul, Minn., marking the first time in the history of baseball that instant replay will be used in a professional game.

“It’s amazing how many disputed moments in baseball -- Jeffrey Maier reaching over the wall at Yankee Stadium, the disputed dropped third strike to A.J. Pierzynski in Game 2 of the ALCS or Don Denkinger's call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series -- could have easily been resolved with an instant replay system that now costs about $1,000,” said Derek Sharrer, executive vice president and general manager, Saint Paul Saints. “This summer, we’ll take the first step toward giving umpires the same clarity on the field that fans have at home.”

To avoid adding substantial time to the game, video replay will be streamed to a mobile phone kept in umpire crew chief’s pocket, giving him immediate access to the play from his position on the field. The umpire will be able to control the video – functions such as rewind, fast forward and pause – from his phone using Slingbox technology.

“Baseball purists contend that instant replay takes the game out of the umpires’ hands. With the help of Geek Squad, we’re keeping calls – literally – in umpires’ hands using mobile video,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile. “Streaming video is just one of the hundreds of ways mobile technology can be a plus to people’s lives – whether they are passing time at the DMV, making the most of their three-hour layover in the airport, or umpiring a professional baseball game in front of 25,000 screaming fans.”

The American Association All-Star Game takes place on Tuesday, July 22 at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, MN. It will pit the best players in the independent league. Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

"We are happy to have the American Association be the leader in testing this new technology,” said Miles Wolff, American Association Commissioner.

Umpires will review decisions involving homeruns, fair or foul ball, hit batsmen, catch or no catch, plays at the plate and any play with two outs. The crew chief will have the authority to overturn the original call. Geek Squad Agents will be stationed in each team’s dugout in order to quickly respond on the field to any technical issues experienced by the umpires.

The solution designed by Best Buy Mobile and Geek Squad includes the following components:
· Sling Media Slingbox Pro
· TiVO Series 2 Digital Video Recorder
· HTC Touch smart phone

About Best Buy Co., Inc.Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY) operates an international portfolio of brands with a commitment to growth and innovation. Our employees strive to provide customers around the world with superior experiences by responding to their unique needs and aspirations. We sell consumer electronics, home-office products, entertainment software, appliances and related services through approximately 1,300 retail stores across the United States, throughout Canada and in China. Our multi-channel operations include: Best Buy (,, and Best, Future Shop (, Geek Squad ( and, Pacific Sales Kitchen and Bath Centers (, Magnolia Audio Video (, Jiangsu Five Star Appliance Co. ( and Speakeasy ( Best Buy supports the communities in which its employees work and live through volunteerism and grants that benefit children and education.

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