Last night, my brother hooked me up with his 2013 MLB Preview edition of ESPN The Magazine. As I was perusing through the articles, one particular piece caught my eye. An author by the name of Anna Clemmons wrote about a sports facility in Foxborough that opened last June. The facility is Mass General Orthopedics Sports Performance Center.
The article begins by discussing Minnesota Twins prospect Andrew Ferreira, standing shirtless on a fake pitcher’s mound with “62 button-size reflective markers attached to his body.” Ferreira throws 25 pitches off of a fake mound in a simulated pitching session. Meanwhile, the facility’s bioengineers gather and analyze huge amounts of data about the athlete under observation.
The 22 high speed LED 3-D cameras reveal arm speed, rotation, but most importantly isolate the movements of various muscle groups and how they behave under duress. The cameras expose inconsistencies in body motions, in addition to tracking velocity and pitch movement. In other words, Ferreira’s session basically represents the strange, albeit fascinating, nebulous where anatomy begins to merge with advanced baseball metrics. What’s more incredible, is that Ferreira’s personal evaluation cost him only $75.
After reading the article, my mind immediately arrived at two conclusions. First, this is pretty awesome stuff – it actually reminds me of the type of innovation that a guy like Ray Kurzweil might endorse. If knowledge is power, than boy, athletes could potentially have a lot to gain. What was once seemingly proprietary (and probably limited) information is now cheap and completely available, and can be accessed by any player looking for a competitive (legal) edge. As the facility notes, their job is not to replace the pitching coach. It’s designed to revolution how players train.
The second thought was that I hope the Yankees are absolutely keeping their eye on this type of technology if they haven’t already begun exploring like options. Obviously player development and injuries are not entirely controllable, and as we all know, setbacks are inevitable. After all, players still have to execute a plan, and injuries can happen to even the most durable guys. Still, if there is any possible way of preserving players and helping them reach their maximum potential, I think it should be explored. A small investment now could pay off in a big way down the road. I would think that nominal cost would pay for itself and then some the first time a player who may not have been able to “put it all together” was able to do so thanks to a different approach.
Anyway, if you get a chance, check out the website. It’s cool stuff and it’s definitely the future of sports.