Technology transforming scouting

Ben visits Nashville, where the Minors meet the Internet age

By Benjamin Hill / | May 13, 2013 8:50 AM ET

At any given Minor League stadium on any given night, a small cadre of baseball professionals can be found sitting directly behind home plate. Those on the more advanced end of the age spectrum are usually scouts, while the ones that look like players -- tall, tanned, and wearing loose-fitting collared shirts -- well, they look like players because they usually are. It is common practice throughout the Minors for a pitcher to chart pitches in the stands the day after a start, while dressed in "civilian" attire.

That's what right-hander R.J. Seidel was doing at Nashville's Greer Stadium on Thursday, the day after making his Triple-A debut as a member of the hometown Sounds. Sitting next to him, however, was a more recent and increasingly commonplace addition to the ranks of this radar gun-toting fraternity: the Minor League video intern.

That would be 26-year-old Adam Hayes, a graduate of Saint Louis University who will be pursing an MBA at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University beginning this fall. Hayes' professional aspirations revolve entirely around the world of baseball, and his current job is the latest step in this still-nascent journey.

"I'd be lying if I said that, ultimately, I didn't want to be a GM," said Hayes, his feet sprawled over the seat in the next row as he entered each pitch's type and location into a laptop that, true to its name, was perched in his lap. "I love the player development process, and I'd love to one day take part in helping to build and maintain a farm system."

Hayes' first job in baseball was as a ticket intern for the Visalia Rawhide, and he then worked for two years for Baseball Info Solutions (a company that describes itself as "specializing, collecting, interpreting and disseminating baseball statistics"). He called that experience a "gateway" to the work he's doing now as an employee of the Milwaukee Brewers, who pay him on a per-game basis to extensively document each and every pitch that occurs at Greer Stadium (the Sounds are Milwaukee's Triple-A affiliate).

To do this, Hayes sets up four cameras prior to the game: behind the plate, in both dugout wells, and center field. That last one is a bit tricky, as he has to climb up a ladder mounted to a rickety wooden fence to place the camera. Removing his weight from the ladder after the descent can alter the camera's position, ruining the shot for the entire evening. Such is life in the Minor Leagues.

Hayes Laptop

With the cameras running and the game underway, Hayes then sits behind home plate and, using a computer program called BATS, charts the speed, type and location of every pitch in real time. After the game, the video is compressed, combined with Hayes' information, and uploaded to an FTP site that can be accessed by Brewers front-office members in both Milwaukee and their Spring Training home in Phoenix.

"You can search every at-bat, every pitch, mining data for specific events," said Hayes. "You can pull up video of a player from last year and run it side by side with this year, and you can even overlap pitches. Did you see that Yu Darvish GIF [in which he is shown delivering all five of his pitches at once]? Basically, I can do that."

Though video interns at the lower levels of the Minors generally travel with the team, Hayes does not because the Sounds fly commercially to every away location save Memphis. But, in Nashville, he is available prior to all games to facilitate video reviews for players and coaches.

"I'm there if something needs to be done. The goal is for the players to learn the software so that when they get to Milwaukee they can use it on their own," said Hayes.

The players' usage of the tremendous amount of video available can vary widely. Seidel, for his part, was fairly nonchalant.

"I'm in [the video room] maybe once a week to check something out. At the spur of the moment, it can be a nice thing to have," he said. "If a coach wants you to see something, he'll grab you, but usually it's up to the players. I use it more to look at how the hitters are swinging, if anything, but it can be good to see pitch location or if you're flying open in your delivery. Seeing it in slo-mo, you can really break it all down."

Hayes, meanwhile, will continue to serve in this video intern capacity until he begins grad school in the fall in pursuit of an MBA that he hopes will further his career.

"I don't know if I'll be able to pay off my debt, but it's worth a shot," he said. "Working in baseball is all that I want to do."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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