As a former professional baseball pitcher for the Kansas City Royals™, the communication and collaboration involved in every game of baseball is a subject near and dear to my heart.
Before, during and after any given play, a tremendous amount of communication takes place among players and coaches—in person and via technology. Everyone has a role and a responsibility, and lack of effective communication is the surest way to defeat.
Let’s say it’s the seventh inning and the score is tied with a runner on first base and two outs. At this point, the pitcher realizes he has one more hitter to face and one more out to get before he’ll be taken out of the game.
He can see movement in the bullpen as relief pitchers are standing up and starting to stretch. The catcher comes out to the mound to have a quick chat and give a boost of confidence, saying something like, “Hey boss, you’re doing great. Just giving you a quick breather. What pitch do you want to start this guy out with? OK, let’s go.”
The pitcher knows the quick mound visit was just to buy some time for the pitching coach and manager to communicate, getting their plan established and the bullpen going. Now, it’s dig-deep time for the pitcher, so he draws some extra energy from the buzz of the crowd, now on their feet for the last out. Meanwhile, position players are indicating to each other where the play will be and how they need to keep the go-ahead run from scoring. Everyone on the field must execute their roles correctly to get out of the inning.
As the game plays on and situations like this impact the score, collaboration between coaches becomes even more significant, frequent and intense. Often, there are discussions in the dugout about which relief pitcher should get ready based on which opposing batters are due up. Hitting coaches and bench coaches are sharing their thoughts on the right approach against the opposing pitcher.
As the manager signals to the catcher to go out to the mound and talk to the pitcher, he turns to the pitching coach to formulate a plan. As strategies are discussed and agreed upon, the pitching coach reaches for the Mitel phone in the dugout. On the other end, the bullpen phone rings and, like Pavlov’s dog, a shot of adrenaline goes through the seven relief pitchers anxiously waiting to hear their name called.
So, what exactly do coaches talk about during those dugout-to-bullpen conversations? There are 3 typical conversations:
• Get throwing – “The current pitcher is near the end of his outing, so tell relief pitcher XYZ to get going and be ready for the next inning.”
• Get up – “The current pitcher doesn’t match up well with a hitter coming up soon and the score is close, so tell relief pitcher X to be ready to face that hitter.”
• Get going and get hot – “The current situation is crucial, and we need relief pitcher XYZ to get ready now.”
Then, the bullpen coach has a quick conversation with the pitching coach, and the plan is set in motion. As he hangs up the Mitel phone, he says, “Serrano, get going.” An adrenaline rush takes over as I grab my glove and a baseball and head to the bullpen mound.
It’s difficult to focus on getting ready to pitch and the developing situation in the game, so I rely on the bullpen coach to keep me posted. I hear the crowd erupt and the coach say, “OK, groundball to shortstop for the out, but hold on; I think they’re going to review the call.” After a brief replay review, the call on the field is confirmed and the runner is out. The inning is over. The bullpen phone rings again, and this time the coach tells me, “You’re in.”
Throughout this situation, the Mitel phones were an integral part of the game—and a lot was riding on their dependability. Failed technology stops a game’s rhythm, and if one team has an issue the rules require the other team to stop usage as well.
This was only one instance, one situation, one pitch, but Mitel’s technology enables real-time communication for all 2,430 games in a season, plus the post-season and over 1,400 replay reviews.
Prior to the 2018 season, the technology across all MLB™ dugouts, bullpens, press boxes and clubhouses varied greatly. This led to an inconsistent user experience for the visiting team’s coaches and managers and differences in reliability. Since partnering with Mitel in 2018, MLB™ has implemented a standardized solution – the MiVoice Business platform and 6920 IP phones – across all 30 stadiums, providing everyone with a consistent and seamless experience.
As part of the solution deployed in all 30 MLB™ stadiums, Mitel also powers the connection for on-field replay reviews back to the Replay Operations Center in New York. During a replay review, the communication technology needs to be immediate and work seamlessly every single time. Making the right call can be the difference between a win and a loss.
On an international level, during the 2019 season, the New York Yankees™ and the Boston Red Sox™ will play a two-game series in London. This will be the first time ever an MLB™ game will be played in Europe, and Mitel will provide the communications for the London Series™ to ensure a consistent experience for both teams playing abroad.
As technology in baseball continues to evolve both on and off the field, Mitel will be there to answer the call.
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