This article originally appeared on InnovationMap and was written by Natalie Harms.
Over the past decade or so, sports franchises have seen a boom in technology integration. The fact of the matter is that both the teams and the players need to tap into tech to have a competitive advantage on the field — and especially when it comes to the business side of things.
"Technologically advanced companies want to do business with technologically advanced companies," says Matt Brand, senior vice president of corporate partnerships and special events at the Houston Astros. "Old cats like me need to realize you have to stay current or else you're just going to get passed up."
Brand was the subject of a live recording of HXTV — the video arm of Houston Exponential — at The Cannon. He addressed several trends in sports technology, and shared how the Astros are approaching each new hot technology.
The Astros are pretty ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, Brand says, and the trick is keeping a pulse on potential game-changing technology far in advance of implementation.
"The things that we're developing now in 2019 and 2020 are the thing that are going to help us in 2024 and 2025," Brand says.
The approach to technology in sports is changing as younger players enter the scene.
"This generation of players want all the technology they can get," Brand says. "They want what's going on up to the day."
From esports to sports betting sites, here's what the hometeam has on its radar, according to brand.
The evolution of pitching technology
One aspect of the game that's been greatly affected by technology is pitching. Brand says that pitching coach, Brent Strom, is better able to do his job nowadays that there's better quality video and monitoring technologies. Brand cited the transformations of former pitcher Charlie Morton and current pitcher Ryan Pressly. Both saw impressive transformations in their pitching ability thanks to Strom and his technology.
"Brent has the ability to take technology and blend it with the craft," Brand says.
The players as industrial machines
One way the franchise thinks about its players is as machines — in the least objectifying way, surely. But Brand compares baseball players to major, expensive oil and gas machines, and in heavy industry, it's very common for a company to drop $30 million or more on a machine. Of course the company would schedule preventative maintenance and service appointments to protect their investments.
"We've got players now who are high performance machines," Brand says, citing players like Justin Verlander. "We want to make sure we have the best technology and the best care around them."
From doctors and nutritionists to the latest and greatest technologies, implementing the best practices is a good way to protect your assets.
Wearables and sleep technology
Another trend within sports is tracking sleep using technology. Wearable devices to track sleep and health are widely used, says Brand, but the Astros weren't comfortable with the constant monitoring.
"They feel like it's an invasion of privacy," Brand says. They feel like the data would be used against them when it came time to negotiate their contracts.
But prioritizing sleep is crucial in a sport where players travel across the country playing 162 games a season. Brand says investing in the players' sleep equipment is something they make sure to do.
Brand says, somewhat controversial, that esports is pretty low on the franchise's priority list, and there's one reason for that: Money.
Continue reading on InnovationMap to learn about a movement coming in marketing and betting within sports.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.