While the 2020 Major League Baseball season didn’t go as planned after being cut short, 2021 is expected to be a full 162 game season. The 2021 season kicked off on April 1st with capacity restrictions in place and with the organization leaning on AV technology to provide a safer experience for in stand fans as well as a more engaging experience for those relegated to watching the game from their living room couch.
Fans who are lucky enough to secure a ticket to view a game in person will likely see some changes to patron experiences such as cashless and even cashier-less transactions and to accept biometrics for entry, and an expansion of the Snap AR Lens Kit included in the MLB app. The app previously offered six AR lenses that allowed fans visiting a ballpark to take selfies wearing virtual World Series hats or holding and moving a bat. The app will now allow each club to individualize its presentation.
Artificial Crowd Noise
A holdover from last year and an element now used in most televised professional sports, artificial crowd noise will be required for venues that are at less than 25% capacity. A lesson from last year was that deafening silence while watching any game was not helpful in engaging fans. The sounds of fan noise, real or not, goes a long way towards lending the pre-pandemic feel to any sports event.
In-Game Video I-pads
Amid concerns of video misuse and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, video rooms were off limits for players in much of the 2020 season. This season with changes to remove catcher signals and to delay video a half-inning prior to players viewing, along with providing I-pads in the dugout and bullpen rather than video rooms, in-game video will make a comeback. Teams can upload their own data, spray charts and information prior to the game, and the tablets will be monitored by league personnel.
Use of Augmented Reality (AR)
Fans will experience an increased use of AR to overlay graphics created with data from Statcast, a highly accurate automated tool utilized to analyze player movements and athletic abilities. The data includes unique angles on pitch trajectory, as well as wind and environmental conditions to allow for the improvement of player movement replays from stick figures to robust avatars in which any point of view can be digitally recreated.
Statcast Pitch Tracking
For 2021, the Hawk-Eye cameras will now be able to measure spin directly (rather than infer it (as the former TrackMan radars did)—not just spin rate but also spin axis and seam orientation. Hawk-eye cameras replaced the older system in 2020.