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We don’t have wireless bullpen phones, but that’s a good thing

Oct 15, 2013, 9:26 AM EDT

On field mobile

Last offseason there was a big announcement by MLB and T-Mobile about replacing the bullpen phones with a high-tech wireless system. You’ll notice, however, — as Ira Boudway of BusinessWeek did — that teams are still using the landlines. The comment from T-Mobile on the matter:

T-Mobile and MLB have been testing the In-Game Communications System in MLB non-game situations in several ballparks throughout the year and that testing is ongoing. As the In-Game Communication system is part of the field-of-play, T-Mobile and Major League Baseball agree that it is very important that before the technology is installed in ballparks for in-game use, the system needs to be game-ready. When the In-Game Communications System is game-ready, we will launch it in a couple of stadiums, to start. And then, we will roll it out to other ballparks from there.

I realize a lot of people were skeptical of the change to begin with as it appeared driven by a sponsorship relationship rather than an actual technological need. I also realize that people may, as they often to, choose to poke fun at MLB or T-Mobile for the system not being up and operating as promised. The default in most instances, actually, is to poke fun at MLB.

But really, I think this is a good moment to actually praise Major League Baseball for making sure that the game isn’t interrupted with technical issues. I’m guessing there was some pressure on them from some person with a ledger to make it happen regardless for purposes of making some T-Mobile money in ads and placement and things. That they didn’t because they’re still trying to make the system work and not screw up the on-field product is commendable.

  1. stoutfiles - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Can’t wait to read an article about the wireless signal being hacked.

  2. historiophiliac - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    I still can’t hear you now.

    I was actually waiting for the off-season to raise this again. I’ve been thinking of it. I so wanted them to be using the pink phones… Keep this in mind for the replay system. They’ll announce it but it will not go into effect right away. It would be too organized to wait to announce it until it’s ready to launch.

  3. sdelmonte - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Never mind that whole “inability of the Cylons to hack into the system” thing you mentioned when it first came up.

  4. blacksables - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    There has got to be some kind of corporate sponsorship deal tied in with this, where Bud and the boys are going to make some extra bucks.

    Because I fail to see how this is any more effective, or cheaper, than sending a ball boy to the bullpen.

    I mean, he might have to run 400 feet or something and pass the message on as correctly as any other forms of communication.

  5. dowhatifeellike - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    In a full stadium, the nearest cell tower(s) gets overloaded and maintaining a connection is an iffy proposition no matter which carrier you use. Installing a wireless phone system that has to work every time is a tall task.

    • dowhatifeellike - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      If I were T-Mobile, I’d use a standard wireless house phone and change the hardware to look like one of their mobile phones. Operate on a frequency that nobody else is using.

      • bfunk1978 - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        Interference will be an issue for those as in-stadium wifi becomes standard. Those networks will have to run on 2.4GHz in order to get the distance needed to blanket the seating which is right where the dugout is. Most wireless phones run on 2.4Ghz. Not an issue with a wireless point with a couple of clients nearby but that gets compounded by the 30k+ wireless clients in the stadium. Plus, land line wireless phone systems running on 2.4Ghz don’t get much for distance. You need several hundred feet and ideally more so that you’re not on the edge of reception in the bullpen.

      • bfunk1978 - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        Then again you said operate on a frequency that nobody else is using. But good luck there with radio, broadcast digital television, upwards of a gazillion cellular bands, and everything else.

      • kevinbnyc - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        If I were T-Mobile, I’d just have MLB slap some T-Mobile stickers on the existing hard-wired phones and stop wasting money trying to make this work.

  6. bfunk1978 - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Oh, if they’re going to be using T-Mobile it’s probably for the best that they stick with land lines at all times.

  7. pixteca - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Just get them some walkie-talkies.

  8. jm91rs - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Might be kind of cool if fans on Television were able to listen into a call to the bullpen. I don’t see a ton of strategical advantage to the opposing team knowing what’s said. They can already see who’s up and tossing in the pen, and they can figure out who will come in based on matchups. There’s no rule against stalling, so even if the call were saying something along the lines “he’s not ready, buy me some time” the opposing team couldn’t do anything about it anyway.

  9. cur68 - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Carrier pigeons…or, better yet, a trained border collie. Either would be more reliable. With the dog you’d have to have some rookie in charge of poopie scoopy. But, you’d get to enjoy the sight of the dog attacking the other team during bench clearing brawls.

    • bh192012 - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Too many pigeons in the parks already, what we need are some carrier falcons who can double duty as pigeon clearing devices.

      • cur68 - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:15 PM

        More mayhem? I like it.

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    They have the phones, yet the manager has to wave the proper hand when he is half-way to the mound to “signal” for the reliever anyway. The whole process is a little bit silly anyway. What will be funnier is when some septuagenarian manager can’t work the cell phone, or loses it SOMEWHERE in the dugout.

  11. billybawl - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    I’d rather see somebody sponsor a hardwired instant replay and review system.

    All the good publicity T-Mobile gets from this (not much, really) will be out the window the first time the system inevitably fails.

  12. crackersnap - Oct 15, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Wait. We are commending MLB for NOT doing anything? When the best thing that MLB can do is to do nothing, we have a fresh perspective on the Bud Selig legacy.

    Meanwhile, speaking from the fan experience, we have been suffering from network over-saturation inside stadiums for years and years now. Nobody cared to fix that when it was just us fans who were inconvenienced. Now that the inconvenience is MLB themselves, it’s a whole different story. Watch them introduce some sort of secure 4G network that only their own properly encoded devices can attach to.

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