Billy Broadbent hasnt seen a baseball game in the flesh since 1997. But he hasnt missed a pitch, either. Thats because during every Boston Red Sox game, Broadbent is under the stands, hunched over a video feed of the game, cataloging each pitch and at-bat so that players, coaches and the manager can retrieve clips at a moments notice.
Need to know what pitches Roger Clemens threw on three-and-two counts going back three years? Got that. Want a peek at the pitches that have struck out Bernie Williams? Got that, too. Or in the case of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, want to study Mariano Riveras motion to the plate with a man on first? Got that.
Get all those things, and, more often than not, you get the wins that result from those tiny but crucial bits of baseball intelligence.
Galen Carr handles the technical work of setting up and managing the system, while Broadbent records, catalogs and saves the clips. You wont find either name in the program, but both are with the Red Sox at home and away, taking a black box of 50TB—three years worth—of digital video on the road when the team leaves town.
"It takes 15 minutes to half an hour to set up, except in Minnesota, where it takes over an hour," said Broadbent. Thats because, he said, visiting-team space in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis is so cramped that he must commandeer a bathroom for his studio.
At Bostons Fenway Park, a kiosk is set up in the runway between the clubhouse and the dugout—Major League Baseball forbids teams to use video in the dugout itself—and serves up video for players who may want to review their last at-bat. World Series Most Valuable Player Manny Ramirez is a regular viewer, Broadbent said.
The software program is called Bats and was created by Mike Phillips, founder and president of Sydex Computer Systems Inc., a five-person software house in Grand Rapids, Mich., that specializes in statistical software for sports.
The Bats program was created in 1990 and was upgraded significantly in 2000 with the addition of digital video. The software runs on Intel Corp. servers equipped with 2TB of storage. Bats can store and retrieve video from left, right and center field locations and will soon be enhanced to handle an overhead video feed as well, said Phillips.
"We enhance it for the pro teams. We try to stay on top of the curve," said Phillips. "Weve got stuff that Carlton Fisk suggested years ago. My skill is to build a system in whatever way they tell me to." Phillips said he is in discussions with Panasonic to license the technology.
The Red Sox are not alone in using video archives for strategic advantage. Eight other teams, including Bostons arch rival, the New York Yankees, also use Bats. But the Sox trail no one in video sophistication, according to Broadbent. "Nobodys ahead of us," he said.