There were a few ripples in the online pond during spring training when the Washington Post‘s Jesse Dougherty skipped a Twitter stone about MLB testing wireless communication devices at Nationals camp. Aimed at preventing sign-stealing, these watch-like pieces of wearable tech would allow catchers to communicate pitch types and locations to the mound.
The fallout from such a process, however, could mitigate any benefits from its adoption. Early reports were that the devices might actually increase time between pitches in some cases, thus counteracting the MLB’s pace-of-play initiatives. And what about the other seven defensive players, whose positioning and anticipation are based on the very information they could normally glean from a catcher’s signs?
As it turns out, someone may have already figured all that stuff out. Ryan Clements, a former baseball player and technology education major at SUNY-Oswego, developed the K-Band wrist wearable with the help of his brother, Andrew, and cousin, Caleb Gleason. Designed to be worn on the glove hand with its display on the inside of the wrist for discreet viewing, the K-Band communicates pitch type and location as well as count and suggested defensive shifts.
Think of it like a more specialized FitBit, but for use by an entire team rather than just one fitness enthusiast. Each team would have its own gateway transmitter to control broadcast frequency and house requisite data. Security protocols would obviously have to be adopted as well, both at the source of the transmission and with MLB as a whole.
If it works the way Clements says it should, K-Band could eliminate sign-stealing while also aiding pace-of-play efforts.
“We have noticed how important pace of play can be and how it can not only influence the product of baseball but a fan’s opinion of the game,” Clements shared with CI. “Designed to speed up the pace of play, eliminate missed or stolen signs and create a better fan experience with fewer delays, K-Band will allow a coach to send secure signs instantly to all players, potentially eliminating 10-20 minutes of dead time from an average game”
“K-Band is currently patent pending and seeking approval and funding from a variety of leagues to continue prototype development.”
Among those organizations being approached are the NCAA and the Atlantic League, the latter of which has partnered with MLB to conduct beta testing of mound height and distance, along with the use of an electronic strike zone. Several leagues have agreed to conduct testing of K-Band and third party electronic engineers in Hopkinton, MA are ready to start prototypes as soon as possible, so Clements says it’s simply a matter of raising the requisite capital by finding additional investors.
It’s pretty obvious that we’re not talking about something that could be implemented for the coming season, perhaps not even in 2020, but I find this technology fascinating. After some initial skepticism when I first envisioned the whole concept, I’m starting to come around a little bit. When you get right down to it, I’d be in favor of anything that could eliminate dead time from the game without fundamentally altering the way it’s played.
Check out the images below and share your thoughts on this particular tech, or the general idea of using devices as part of the game, below.
Ed. note: Though I suppose it should go without saying, I did want to make clear that Cubs Insider has no stake in K-Band as either an investor or a paid advertiser. After the piece on MLB testing wearable tech, Ryan Clements reached out to offer some info on his product and I thought it was pretty cool.