The Robotic Cy Young - April 3, 2001
TechTV News' Don Knapp looks at how technology is giving batting-practice pitchers a rest, and giving batters a tougher workout. Read the raw script.
While ordinary pitching machines have two wheels that snap the ball with pretty good force…..
That’s a virtual pitcher winding up on the screen. But that’s a real baseball shooting out of the screen at 90 miles an hour. With the right data programmed into the computer that controls the ProBatter machine, pitches can be made to move just like a slider from Greg Maddux, a curveball from Curt Schilling, or a darting fastball from Pedro Martinez.
ProBatter’s machine uses a third wheel to add subtle forces to the baseball’s spin. A computer loaded with data controls the three wheels to adjust speed, spin and rotation. That’s enough, the company claims to reproduce the pitches of pitchers in its data base.
(Scott Burdick ProBatter Sports) "It's got three wheels, it's got a computer, it's got a ball feeder, and you got a touch screen controller that allows a coach or player chose any pitch he wants, any sequence he wants."
ProBatter loaned machines to three major league teams.
Scott Burdick of Connecticut’s ProBatter Sports says he expects to be able to eventually put on the screen exact video images of the players whose pitches are duplicated by the machine. The Kansas City Royals have been letting players work out with a ProBatter machine during spring training here in Davenport, Florida.
(Don Knapp TechTV Davenport, Floirda)
"No doubt a machine can generate a hard pitch. But the question is, can a machine really duplicate the subtleties and finesse of a major league pitcher putting practically every muscle in his body behind the ball?"
Batting Coach Lamar Johnson says no, not yet… but he likes the possibilities.
(Lamar Johnson, Batting Coach, Kansas City Royals) "What I see, it can cut the ball a little bit, it can throw sliders, change ups, throws curve balls, really, it throws, quite, almost all the pitches, but it just doesn't have the consistency and the movement that the pitchers have."
Johnson says he expects the technology to keep improving.
(Lamar Johnson/K.C. Royals Batting Coach) "We're hoping it works, because technology's come a long way and it helps us with our game every day, so its just another tool, we hope will work, but there's just some things they still got to work out."
Johnson wants a screen with more light so players can see the ball a bit better. Players, he says, have mixed reactions.
(Lamar Johnson/K.C. Royals Batting Coach) The guys who come in here, they love it. They're here to hit. Some guys don't even want to go near it. That's just the way it is, we knew it was going to happen."
Johnson says he expects some players to buy their own ProBatter machines, off season workouts. Its 90-thousand dollar price tag is well within the budget of many professional baseball players.
And what about the rest of us?
ProBatter says computer re-creations of baseball’s best pitches will be coming soon to a public batting cage near you.
Posted April 3, 2001