Apple has struck an exclusive deal with Major League Baseball to supple the company’s iPad Pro tablets to every team along with a dedicated app to give teams instant access to performance statistics, videos of players, previous games and help them analyze how pitchers and hitters are going to perform.
The move, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes at the same time as the league lifts a longstanding ban on using laptops, tablets and smartphones in dugouts. The devices will be supplied by the MLB to each team but use of Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets will be optional.
The tablets will be provided to team managers and coaches fitted with rugged cases displaying the MLB logo. Each iPad will come pre-loaded with a new app called MLB Dugout, built by MLB’s New York-based Advanced Media division, with assistance from Apple.
The app will provide detailed performance data for each player, as well as “spray charts” to allow coaches to assess the most likely direction a player is going to hit the ball. The data will be pre-loaded before each game, but in the future the MLB is hoping to include virtually real-time analytics. Each team will be given proprietary data on their iPads rather than drawing from a league-wide database.
“I started in this game 25 years ago and the single biggest change has been the emergence and predominance of analytics,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Wall Street Journal. “It affects the way we judge players, make decisions on the field and the way fans consume the game.”
The financial details of Apple’s partnership with the MLB have not been revealed.
The deal comes over a year after the NFL and Microsoft struck a deal to use Surface tablets during games, a four-year agreement worth $400 million. Unlike Apple's deal NFL teams are obliged to use Microsoft's tablets during each game.
“We’re not just replacing binders with tablets, we’re actually helping them do things that weren’t possible before,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing.