IT: Red Soxs Tenth Player

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2004-11-29 Print this article Print

Red Sox management's aggressive approach to its IT operation has paid off—big-time.

The turning point of this falls epic Boston Red Sox comeback in the American League Championship Series took place not in the ninth inning of Game 4—when Dave Roberts stole second base, putting the tying run in scoring position—but two innings earlier, when Roberts made his way from the dugout through the teams clubhouse to the weight room, where the Red Sox video command center is arrayed against the end wall.

There, Roberts asked Billy Broadbent, who handles video systems for the Red Sox, to queue up footage of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera pitching from the stretch with a man on first base. Two innings later, Roberts put to good use what he had learned from the teams massive digital archive of opposing pitchers.

Inserted as a pinch runner in place of Kevin Millar, who had singled, Roberts stole second off Rivera. When Bill Mueller singled, Roberts scored the tying run, igniting a comeback that eventually led to an extra-inning victory for the Red Sox.

That win, of course, was the first of four straight against the Yankees and another four straight against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Sox their first World Series championship since 1918. But without the ability to retrieve crucial video footage within seconds, the "Red Sox Nation" that follows the team might still be waiting for that championship.

Click here to read more about the video archiving system used by the Red Sox. Red Sox fans can point to many heroes for the teams success, although few would think of technology as a key contributor. However, Red Sox management, led by principal owner John Henry, has taken an aggressive approach to IT over the past several years, which is beginning to pay off in several areas.

"Ownership definitely has an eye toward using whatever tools are available. They view IT as a tool. Thats how they run the operation," said Red Sox CIO Steve Conley, who makes sure Henry stays on top of things, having hooked up a T-1 line to the owners residence.

The state-of-the-art video archive is just one piece of the Red Sox IT operation, which encompasses statistical support systems for the manager, coaches and players; support for the teams army of scouts; ticket sales; promotion; and support for the press and broadcast networks, not to mention routine office chores.

Nearly all the systems that perform these tasks have been overhauled since Conley joined the team four years ago. At that time, the digital video play-by-play system was in its infancy; the teams 80 PCs were running Windows 95; servers were running Windows NT 4.0; the network was a 10M-bps shared-hub Ethernet LAN; and a fair amount of work was being done by typewriter.

Next Page: Wiring Fenway

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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