Call it Web 2.0 meets Major League Baseball.
Computers in the dressing rooms of MLB umpires have been loaded with IBM's WebSphere Portal software to help the officials prepare for games.
IBM and MLB together placed the Web browser-based MLB Umpire Portals on desktop computers in the 30 stadiums in the National League and American League. Financial terms of the agreement between IBM and MLB were not disclosed.
This may not be your typical enterprise application, but umpires use this software as the gateway to player stats, injury reports and turf conditions.
The Umpire Portal also leverages Google Gadgets, which are mini-applications users can drop into a Web portal page, to mash up images of weather and field conditions to determine if they will affect play.
That MLB and IBM are enabling umpires who aren't steeped in Internet technologies to use MLB and Google Gadget tools to compare and cross-reference information is a sign that Web 2.0 mashups have moved to the mainstream, permeating even professional sports.
Once technologies make their way to the sporting world, which has its own set of governance rules to provide security and privacy, it's safe to say that they are ready for most businesses.
Umpires may also use the MLB Umpire Portals to view videos of certain plays from games. For example, a training tool called You Make the Call shows umpires a video of a controversial call and provides them with a detailed explanation of the ruling, Mike Morris, vice president of application development and program management for MLB, told me July 17.
Umpires can also access MLB information via the Portals, mashing up player histories and analyzing player interactions to determine if there is a potential hostile scenario at play.
Is a player a hothead, or a cool customer? The Umpire Portal will tell the tale, pulling data from the Web and assembling it on a single page to help officials get an idea of any potential for conflict.
In a pay-it-forward scenario, an umpire can use the Portal to mash up a report of the game on the desktop for the umpire who officiates the next game.
The relationship for MLB and IBM is clearly symbiotic; MLB will get more informed officials while IBM garners more mind share and market share for its Portal software as it seeks to compete with Microsoft, Oracle, Google and others in Web services applications and modern application development.
Deals such as this are also a good reason why IBM's Lotus software unit July 17 posted a 21 percent sales hike for the second quarter.
MLB Umpire Portals aren't the only collaboration between IBM and MLB to keep operations associated with the league fluid.
To authenticate and license baseball memorabilia, MLB uses WebSphere Portal software and Symbol handheld wireless devices to scan and upload information on a product.
Say a fan grabs a home run ball. A security guard will link up with the fan and place a unique hologram on the ball. This information will be wirelessly uploaded to MLB's IBM DB2 9 data server.
If the fan decides to sell the ball to a retailer, prospective buyers can confirm its authenticity immediately online. This is a departure from previous product authentication, a laborious manual process.