Spokane Indians baseball players have always been scrutinized by their major league parent clubs.
This season’s Indians will be under the microscope more than any in history.
Every swing and pitch the Indians execute this summer will be monitored in real time by five high-definition cameras that the parent-club Texas Rangers have installed at Avista Stadium.
The Rangers have outfitted all five of their minor league affiliates with the cameras. Indians director of public relations Dustin Toms showed off the high-tech gadgets on Thursday as workers scurried throughout the stadium in preparation for next week’s opening night.
“They’re using it to enhance their player development system,” Toms said. “They’ll be able to sit down in Arlington, call up a player in Spokane, send them the file that they want them to watch and say, ‘Hey, see your stance? You need to widen it up a little bit. Raise your elbow up a little bit.’ ”
Four of the cameras are attached to the rafters down the left- and right-field lines. The two outside cameras are directed at the pitcher’s mound while the others focus on home plate.
Another camera is stationed close to center field, providing a view similar to a TV broadcast.
“I’m not sure any other team has done this throughout their entire minor league organization,” Toms said. … “I think this will just be another tool that they can implement that helps them really know the players.”
The Indians first heard about the project when the Rangers began installing cameras at Triple-A Round Rock (Texas) and Double-A Frisco (Texas). The Indians were last on the list because their season starts in June rather than April.
“We weren’t sure they were going to do it for us, with 38 (home) games in a short season, but the schedule just kind of worked out, so they were able to get out here and get the cameras installed,” Toms said.
The Rangers have hired an intern who will monitor the operation all summer from the press box.
Toms said the new system isn’t intended to cut down on scouts or take away duties from batting and pitching coaches.
“It’s the digital age,” Toms said. “Everything’s Web-based now and this is something you’re able to do. Every (coach) is doing a great job, but now they can do a better job, because they have the access to the items and the gear they need to do this.”
The Indians will begin their 32nd consecutive year in the Class A short-season Northwest League at home next Friday in the opener of a five-game series against the Eugene Emeralds.
Tim Hulett will log his eighth season as Indians manager. Coaches and players will start arriving Sunday and Monday in preparation for a three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday at Avista Stadium.
Rangers’ early focus on preps
Texas’ first two selections Thursday during the Major League Baseball draft were right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz of Sanger (California) High School, taken 30th overall, and shortstop Tiquan Forbes of Columbia (Mississippi) High, picked 59th.
Neither is likely to be assigned to Spokane. NWL rosters are generally stocked with just-drafted college players and those with professional experience.
The draft continues today and concludes Saturday.