Baseball training over the years has advanced to an entirely new level, and the complexity of the AI behind it is extremely fascinating. If you have not researched or have been informed about the upcoming AI in today’s world you might be at a loss by how far it has come. The advancements made technologically are setting up future generations to make baseball more accessible no matter the location. “Now, with the introduction of artificial intelligence in sports, we are witnessing another wave of change from the way games are played to the way they are experienced by fans across the world”. Even right now, as long as you have an accessible area and the right tools you can now practice against the best to ever do it in the game of baseball.
Beginning in the late 1980s the use of AI in baseball was starting to become common and prevalent. The first use was the idea of simple stat tracking. Although some people do not see this as AI, this was the first example of taking advantage of access to the internet in order to record and document player statistics. The most revolutionary change in baseball training came when Vr became implemented into many players regiments.
At the most basic level the AI allows teams to collect data and pinpoint players’ weaknesses and strengths. The player and coaches can then analyze the information tracked by the AI and begin to work on, for example, a specific pitch that the player struggles with. Before VR AI was always a part of the game of baseball ever since the invention of the internet and the computer. One example of this is if a specific player truly can not hit a curveball. The AI will recognize this and begin to recommend exercises in order to improve on the pitch.
The first article that I was able to find on Vr baseball training was published back in 2017. The company responsible for the creation of a developmental app that will help baseball players in the future was known as EON Sports. The actual app was designed and published in 2013, and ever since then has slowly and progressively gotten better. Over the past 9 years the game has entirely changed and has adapted to new technological advancements, as well as having the funds to improve.
EON Sports was the first company to introduce virtual reality training, but have since branched off to other sports such as football. The most popular training AI for baseball today is a program known as WIN Reality. The developers have created training regiments customized to each player and able to be changed at any point. Over the past years it has developed into a subscription service that is paid for monthly. The average price ranges from 19$ to 29$ on top of the price for the vr system itself. The Oculus Quest and other systems like it are also required to run the program. The adaptability and versatility of where and when you can train makes the price well worth it. The program can be used individually or purchased yearly by a team. Some teams that use WIN Reality as of now are Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. Over the past years MLB teams have started to train with the system and overall have seen improvement.
There are many benefits to training using AI. Some benefits include the accessibility of training on your own, players being able to build confidence in a low pressure environment, and it can accommodate a player’s weaknesses. Usually when training or practicing you need at least another person, but with a VR system you are able to train by yourself. Another advantage of training using VR is being able to build confidence in a low pressure environment. One downfall of many players is not having the confidence to swing the bat when needed. “For hitters, the biggest challenge since baseball’s inception has been getting enough game-speed practice to go up to the plate with confidence” The repetitions available when training alone and no restrictions on pitching can improve overall confidence as well as performance.
Another benefit from a hitting standpoint is being able to focus on your weaknesses. Every hitter has a weakness and being able to personalize and customize every aspect of the game can improve anyone. One remarkable thing about WIN Reality is being able to choose almost any pitcher to face as well as change the situation to simulate pressure. On average players who use WIN Reality have generally better stats during and after using the program. The average college and even MLB players experienced an 12.5% increase in on base percentage, and an 18.5% boost in offensive production.
As the velocity of pitches steadily increases the injuries have followed. The pitchers of this generation have reached new lengths with pitches upwards of 106 miles per hour. The strain on the arm muscles as well as the tendons can cause many minor and major injuries. Advanced AI imaging and tracking of the arm motion can improve if not eliminate injuries when pitching. The most popular program is known as Perfect Game, and it has been developed in order to combat the rise in injuries. “A new app developed by Perfect Game and Re-Play Athletics uses machine learning to build personalized workouts for athletes. The goal is to give young athletes a program that will help them develop both specific baseball skills as well as overall muscle balance”. There are many steps to the program and each of them has their own necessity.
The first step is the player is analyzed by advanced imaging, and their weaknesses and chance for injury is explained. This app is mainly used for pitchers, so the majority of videos and images are going to be of the pitcher’s windup, as well as their arm slots. ‘“Recent advances in machine learning have also aided pitchers in training, detecting patterns in pitching mechanics—previously unobservable to the human eye—to avoid arm stress as well as potentially increase a pitcher’s velocity, movement, or spin rate”. The app is meant to analyze the images and suggest training regiments, along with exercises to improve overall strength and accuracy. Many pitchers also have the dream of going to the big league. This app can also be used to stat track and show college coaches the true potential of some players.
The second step is that the program is developed and customized for the player. “Ultimately, the app can help connect athletes with goods and services. By knowing the player’s training program and game schedule, it can learn to suggest appropriate training equipment or even accommodations for an upcoming travel ball tournament out of state”. With the app being able to recognize a player’s schedule it can recommend recovery exercises as well as strength training that will not interfere with game schedules.
The third and last step is injury prevention. In the long run many players’ careers end in injury. There are a variety of injuries that can be caused by even the most basic baseball movements. “The app aims to provide what Barr calls “building blocks of movement patterns” to create durability and work capacity—in appropriate intervals. Barr says the best way to avoid fatigue during the long baseball season is to build a strong and powerful base of muscle”. The app forces the player to develop good habits and routines in an attempt to prevent simple and even complex injuries. If the player becomes injured and the information is input into the app he or she will be recommended recovery exercises, as well as outlets to receive physical care.
AI truly has made a great contribution to the game of baseball, and it will continue to advance the game until every team has access to the programs. The benefits, especially for the younger generation, are well worth the price. The game will continue to change into the future and more opportunities for injuries will arise. The programs as well as the exercises can provide injury free careers for many upcoming pitchers and hitters that will soon enter America’s game. America’s game will always develop, and Artificial Intelligence companies will try their best to keep up.