Directly behind home plate at Riley Park is a video camera encased in a hard plastic bubble.
Weekend BaseballCharleston Southern vs. The CitadelToday 4 p.m. at Riley Park; Saturday 2 p.m. at CSU; Sunday 1 p.m. at Riley Park App State at College of CharlestonToday 6 p.m.; Sat. 2 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.Arkansas at South CarolinaToday 7:30 p.m.; Sat. 3:15 p.m.; Sun. 1:30 p.m.Duke at ClemsonToday 4 p.m; Sat. 6:30 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.
There are two more cameras high in the stands down the left and right-field lines, and one aimed at home plate from above the center-field fence.
On game days, a Citadel baseball manager unfolds a laptop computer and sets it up on a table next to the home plate camera.
On the computer, he records every pitch — speed, location, type — and the result into a database.
Was the pitch a ball or strike? Was the pitch hit, and if so, how hard and where?
After the game, the numbers are crunched and a Citadel player or coach can call up any situation — an at-bat, a count, a specific pitch — for video review.
It’s all part of a new $15,000 computer/video system that Citadel coach Fred Jordan had installed this season, courtesy of the program’s Diamond Dogs support group.
The system — this one is made by Right View Pro — is part of cutting-edge digital scouting technologies that are finding their way into more ballparks every year.
“It’s been something that we’ve wanted for a couple of years,” said Jordan. “It’s a big financial step, and thanks to our Diamond Dogs we were able to do it. SEC and ACC schools have had it, and now several schools in our league (the Southern Conference) have it.”
Right View Pro’s website lists Clemson and South Carolina among its client schools, along with Winthrop and SoCon programs Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro, Samford and Western Carolina.
Because the system is new, Jordan said Citadel coaches and players still are learning to absorb all the information it makes available.
“It’s a great deal of information, and what we’ve tried to do is sort it out and gather the information that’s most pertinent to each individual,” he said. “It’s a great teaching tool, and we’re sort of learning as we go. There are a lot of things that we will be able to do that we are learning as we go along.”
Citadel hitters say it’s already making a difference. Outfielder Drew DeKerlegand, for example, was having a hard time believing hitting coach Adam Vrable’s assertion that his front foot was landing too much on the heel.
“It was plain as day, easy to see with the new video,” said DeKerlegand, who is batting .378. “I was landing more on my heel than my toe, and that helped me a lot in getting my foot down early and getting in the right spot.”
Slugger Bo Thompson said video study helps him keep his considerable weight back.
“I look at it every day,” said the 5-11, 255-pound Thompson, who is hitting .406 with eight home runs. “It’s state of the art and perfect for us. Coach Vrable can sit down with us and show us our mechanics during at-bats. We haven’t had a system like that before, so it’s really helped.”
In the past, Jordan said, the Bulldogs had to rely on shaky hand-held video and the eyes of the coaches.
“Now, we get four different angles and we can scan from each angle,” he said.
How much difference the system has made is hard to quantify, of course. But after batting .251 with 19 home runs and 4.5 runs per game last season, the 14-9 Bulldogs are up to .313 with 22 homers and 6.9 runs per game through 23 games this season.
Perhaps the pitchers can benefit, too. Citadel hurlers walked 12 batters in an 11-7 loss at College of Charleston on Wednesday.
Said Jordan, “We hope it makes us a little bit better as teachers of the game.”