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College Baseball: The Next Tech Frontier

2019 College World SeriesWe know that high tech has invaded pro baseball, but this year’s College World Series final game showcases two university programs that can credit trackers, sensors and more as key parts of their success.

Both Vanderbilt and the University of Michigan sport impressive rosters and plenty of future pros, but perhaps more importantly both programs can attribute at least part of their success to the use of tech to refine performance. Vanderbilt has been using tech for years; Michigan is a late adopter that utilized only the most rudimentary tools until 2018. From The New York Times:

“It’s become almost like an arms race in technology,” said Brandon Barak, Vanderbilt’s director of player development and a former minor league video coordinator for the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s getting to the point where if you don’t have it, you’re behind.”

Most major-conference teams have invested in TrackMan, the radar system used by M.L.B.’s Statcast, or similar devices to collect basic data on hit and pitched balls in their stadiums. That data may be shared with opponents. The N.C.A.A., though, prohibits data collection during postseason games.

When it comes to player development, virtually all major league teams utilize Rapsodo tracking or similar devices, which measure the angle, spin and break of pitches. About half own Edgertronic cameras, which capture imperceptible differences in hand position and release points, according to officials with both companies.

The issue for many programs when it comes to tech isn’t the availability of high-end tools, but the cost: high-end cameras can cost upwards of $16,000. Some programs have addressed this with alumni contributions, such as a David Price donation to his alma mater, Vanderbilt, while others have slipped it into their annual budgets and paying off the costs over several years. Then again, we’re in the midst of a boom in college baseball on many levels, and tech is definitely part of that boom.

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