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Elephant Rumblings: Virtual reality headsets help A’s prepare for opposing pitchers

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Mobile World Congress 2019 - Day 3
Pictured: Not an A’s player
Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

Technology is always moving, in baseball like everywhere else in the world. For hitters, that now means using virtual reality to study opposing pitchers.

That was the case for the Oakland A’s on Sunday. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman used “virtual reality headsets before the game to help simulate the experience of facing Cleveland starter Adam Plutko,” reports insider Martin Gallegos. Half an hour later they hit back-to-back homers off Plutko in their Cactus League exhibition game.

“Some of the other teams are using it extensively,” said manager Bob Melvin, via Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle. “So, just trying to keep up technology-wise.”

While VR has become a tool to help hitters, the equivalent idea does not appear to have the same effect for pitchers.

“I wish we had an ‘Oculus’ where I could do some pitching to hitting,” said A’s reliever Jake Diekman, via Kawahara. “But hey, whatever. We (pitchers) also win 70% of the time.”

Don’t feel too bad for pitchers, though. There’s plenty of cutting-edge technology out there for them too, and advanced programs like Codify and Driveline have helped some hurlers boost their careers or resurrect previous stardom. And, as Diekman noted, they already have the huge advantage anyway, based on how much more often they succeed compared with hitters.

One natural reaction to these VR headsets is to look forward to the future when they inevitably become a common household video game. I look forward to one day straining my oblique trying to get around on a Liam Hendriks heater, and probably hitting my head on a light fixture while jumping away from a Chad Bradford submarine. Hopefully there will be an option where Bob Melvin throws you soft batting practice with a warm friendly smile on his face (dang I still grounded out to shortstop).

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