Inside Pitch Magazine, Spring 2012

Last Inning: Sign Language – More Rhythm with Algorithms?

Own the Zone Sports LogoMore and more teams in amateur baseball have evolved to the next generation of signs – don't give any.

Thanks to the development of companies like Own the Zone, many coaches have adapted their sign-giving to a system that's as simple as 1-2-3.

Much like the wristband a quarterback wears to translate plays from the sidelines to the huddle, Own The Zone developed a three-digit numbers system that translates pitch selection and location, among other things, from the dugout to the diamond.

In addition to creating a simpler way to relay signals, Own The Zone's system is "pick proof" – as an advanced computer algorithm generates unique 3-digit codes that are re-scrambled every time coaches use the software.

"We have used Own The Zone with great success," said Scott Brosius, former New York Yankee and current Head Baseball Coach at Linfield College. "I feel like our players get the signs quicker and with less mistakes," added the 1998 World Series MVP. "With no risk of our signs being stolen, I believe this is a better way to give signs."

The wristband (that can fit up to 216 codes) includes a key indicating what each code represents. The codes are completely customizable for both offense and defense, as coaches have full control of the signs that go on each card, as well as how many code sequences will represent each of those selections.

Currently in its sixth year of operations, Own The Zone is used by over 300 college programs, including five of the last six College World Series Champions.

"Own the Zone was adapted for baseball and softball coaches from similar systems used for football quarterbacks to send signals to players," said co-owner and COO Liam Woodard. "The intricate sequences of gestures and touching various body parts to signal plays has been part of baseball since the beginning of the modern game. But, along the way coaches have cringed at players who have missed calls and worse, other teams that have "picked" their signs. This technology solves those problems."

After a brief learning curve for coaches and their players, Woodard noted that the pace of games played between teams using Own The Zone has actually quickened, and has observed that "players no longer have to interpret complex sequence of signs."

Woodard is well aware that certain baseball traditionalists are likely to scoff at the adaptation, but that's okay. "Traditions in Major League Baseball, for example, are closely guarded, and coaches are a lot less likely to call pitches. The product speaks for itself, however, through the speed of which it's spread throughout the amateur game. Own The Zone is a result of technological evolution, so we're already working on ways to adapt and make our product better. We've been very pleased with its reception."

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