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.
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.