We’ve heard a lot over the past year or two about how VR is starting to be implemented in real-world sports to help athletes improve their on-the-field skills. While much of these implementations have seemingly been happening more at the youth level, it looks like professional athletes are starting to see the value of virtual reality more for themselves. And in the case of one Major League Baseball player, he’s even gone as far to use the technology on a pretty regular basis.
Earlier this year during Spring Training, the Oakland Athletics became one of a handful of organizations in MLB to adopt a virtual reality training program for its players. The software specifically comes from Win Reality and is one that helps simulate in-game at-bats in a virtual environment. Of those athletes on the team, first baseman Matt Olson is one who proceeded to begin using it somewhat frequently. Within the past few days, Olson said he specifically used the tech to help him better identify the pitchers that a pitcher he hasn’t faced before might be throwing to him.
“I haven’t used it as much during the season but I like to do it on guys I haven’t seen before because it gives you a decent idea of what their motion is like and how their stuff moves,” Olson explained in comments to MLB.com prior to facing off against the Detroit Tigers. “I’ll try to watch mainly the dudes that I haven’t seen before to see what the ball looks like coming out of their hand.” In the game after Olson used VR, the hitter ended up going 2 for 4 and was able to get both of those hits off of the pitcher in question that he hadn’t faced prior.
Speaking more to how it has been used on the Athletics as a whole, manager Bob Melvin also said that he thinks many of his players are taking quickly to the VR tech. “I think they like it. When you haven’t seen a pitcher before, you can get as close a look as you possibly can to what they have, what the mechanics look like and the flight of the ball. Maybe the break of the ball. It’s like you’ve been close to facing them before,” Melvin said. “I think some guys like it more than others at this point. It’s something that we’ll continue to do, and, hopefully, we get everybody to buy in because I know other teams are using it quite a bit.”
Moving into the future, Olson says he’s not sure how common he thinks players will use this tech from Win Reality. “I know some guys have it on their own and they do it at home. I can’t say exactly how many guys are using it. I know some guys aren’t on it and some guys are. It’s kind of like a personal preference thing,” he explained.
As for Olson’s own preference, though, it looks like Win Reality VR is working out quite well for him. The slugger planned to use the VR device again prior to Saturday’s outing against the Tigers and pitcher Casey Mize. Right on queue, Olson was able to hit a home run against Mize early on in the game despite never having faced him in real life before.
Whether or not VR becomes the norm within MLB remains to be seen, but if other players are looking for proof that the technology can work, Olson seems to be a perfect example. Time will tell if its implementation can lead to bigger things for both Olson and the Athletics as the season moves on.