Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has been around baseball for a lot of years, as a player and as an executive. He recognizes, that despite all the tech and data available today, that the game has remained largely unchanged for more than 140 years.
But that doesn’t stop Dipoto and the Mariners from trying to implement new ways and new technologies to improve play. He discussed it all at Thursday’s GeekWire Sports Tech Summit.
Whether it’s analysis of the spin rate on a pitched ball or the launch angle of a batter’s swing — using devices such as Trackman, Rapsodo and force plate technology — Dipoto and his team employ the tech on veteran players and draft prospects alike.
But for all the physical attributes a player may possess — and the data around those skills — Dipoto praised the team’s attention to mental preparedness and the science the team uses to measure that.
“As an addition to what we’re trying to do in our medical department and the effort to keep a player on the field, we’ve had made our biggest investments — in both personnel, in time and in resource — in what I would call our sports science department, which includes the mental skills portion of what we do”, Dipoto said. “We, I would say, among major league clubs, are at the cutting edge in terms of how we introduce mental skills.”
Dipoto said the team has a peak performance program and a specialist at each of its minor league affiliates.
“The thing we least understand as a human race is the mind,” Dipoto said. “If we can keep healthy players in a good mental position … in our game, the frequency with which we play is so great that we have to make sure that our players are prepared to play both mentally and physically and it’s something that we’re taking great care in trying to do.”
A good meal could be one key to a good state of mind, and Dipoto said the Mariners pay close attention to what goes into players bodies to enhance performance. The use of a team nutritionist and a well-known Seattle-area restauranteur aids in that effort.
“Most of these guys eat three meals a day with us,” Dipoto said. “Some of you from Seattle might know the name Ethan Stowell. Ethan puts together tasty food for the players using ingredients that [the team nutritionist] advises. We have now started to supply the food for our minor league teams, something that has never been done in the sport before.”
That’s a long way from just five years ago, when Dipoto remembers his first year as a GM and witnessing a post-game spread that consisted of bags of fast-food burgers.
“We have $160 million payroll, we have players that we need to train as elite-level athletes and we’re pumping ’em full of Whatburgers,” Dipoto laughed.