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MLB uses new technology in games, practices, special events to improve product

| Saturday, March 26, 2016, 5:48 p.m.
Courtesy of Zepp
Products such as the Mike Trout Old Hickory Smart Bat allow players to use technology to improve their production.
Courtesy of Zepp
Products such as the Mike Trout Old Hickory Smart Bat allow players to use technology to improve their production.

Once again, Major League Baseball is racing to keep up with technology, on and off the field.

A multiyear partnership between MLB and Snapchat that started last year bloomed during spring training when a special “Snapchat Day” was held during all games March 11. Players were allowed to use their phones before and after the game to send behind-the-scenes pictures and video to Snapchat. Some used a new contraption called the SnapBat Selfie Stick to get even better shots.

And that's just the start. Snapchat is expected to be a presence on Opening Day and at the All-Star game.

Players won't be using their smart phones during the game, not yet anyway, but it might not be long before they start using a “smart bat,” normal in every respect except for the swing sensor implanted in the handle.

Several manufacturers are producing such bats to sell to the public. Zepp was able to unveil its product — the Mike Trout Old Hickory Smart Bat — during spring training. The sensor has been described as a combination of gyroscopes and accelerometers (don't ask) that produces 1,000 data points to evaluate every aspect of the hitter's swing. The big question, other than “How the heck do they do that?” is when MLB will give its approval.

Speaking of sensors, MLB last year approved — for workout purposes — a device that measures the rotational force pitchers place on their arms, and it should be in wider use this season. It's designed to head off serious arm injuries before they happen by measuring the stress on the ulnar collateral ligament, which leads to Tommy John surgery. It also measures arm slot, rotation and arm speed.

What the players wear, that is, fabric technology, is changing, too. Majestic, the official uniform provider of MLB, is coming out with its Flex Base Uniform System. That's right. It's not just a jersey. It's a system that enables the players to be far more comfortable than those old-fashioned 2015 uniforms.

But don't just take our word for it. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, a new spokesman for Majestic, had this to say (via a press release): “The new Majestic Flex Base uniform feels lighter, more flexible and comfortable. Majestic nailed it! I look forward to competing in this uniform in 2016.”

Sounds just like Noah, doesn't it?

More relevant to safety is the advancing technology in helmets. During spring training, the Pirates were among the teams trying out a new carbon-fiber helmet — more like a visor with ear flaps — to protect pitchers from line drives. Reliever Jared Hughes said he might use it. Closer Mark Melancon said he wasn't yet sure about it.

For fans, this will be another season of MLB Network and's StatCast, which, via several cameras and radar equipment, tracks the location and movement of the ball and players.

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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