Umpire Desktop: MLB Turns to IBM for Web 2.0 Technology

Using IBM's Websphere Portal, MLB umpires can now get information on weather, player statistics and history to help them prepare for games.

Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires can now use Web 2.0 tools to prepare for baseball games. Computers in umpires' locker rooms are being installed with Umpire Desktop, which will offer widgets that provide such information as players' past behavior, weather conditions and historical data, according to Big Blue and officials at MLB.

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Umpire Desktop is based on IBM's Websphere portal, an interface that allows users to mix and match widgets and pick what information they want from sources both inside the firewall and out. IBM and MLB say this will help umpires be able to customize their pre-game routine.

For instance, an umpire can use a widget from Google Gadgets to check the day's weather forecast for the city where he is about to umpire a game. He also can view a widget from MLB that shows him player history and warns him of past incidents between two players on opposing teams.

"We want these things to be presented to them in context before a game," says Larry Bowden, vice president of portal software at IBM. "We want the data to be relevant and save them a lot of time."

Another widget is available that shows player statistics important to making calls during a game. For instance, knowing that a pitcher has a history of throwing wild pitches could help the umpire decipher whether or not plunking a batter was intentional or accidental.

"The Umpire Desktop provides significant, real-time information to our crews, and is a valuable resource with respect to the overall Major League umpiring effort. It is assisting not only in training and development, but also every other aspect of what game officials do." said MLB's Vice President of Umpiring, Mike Port, in a statement.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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