- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

Baseball has seen a high-tech explosion in digital video in recent years. Players now can download footage of their swings onto personal iPods and take their at-bats with them wherever they go.

On every team, there’s a behind-the-scenes guy who handles all things video. On the Nationals, his name is Tom Yost, who moved to Washington from the Brewers early last season. Yost talked to Ken Wright last week.

Q: What is it that you do for the Nationals?

A: It’s my responsibility in a lot of ways to help the coaches and the players become better at what they do. The use of video has actually expanded throughout baseball recently, whereas it started with guys like Tony Gwynn looking at their at-bats and outs.

Pretty much every team has some sort of department where the players and coaches can come in, they can break down game film, they can slow things down and look at a guy’s mechanics. Or players themselves can come in and see what they are doing right, or in some cases, what they are doing wrong, to see if they’ve changed anything and didn’t

realize it.

So, I think it’s become pretty much an invaluable part of what the team does.

Q: What kind of dollar figure can you put on all of your equipment?

A: It varies a lot from team to team. For myself and what we’ve got, I’m comfortable saying it’s a few hundred thousand dollars to get the initial setup going. There are teams that spend a quite a bit more than that, there are some that spend quite a bit less. But it all

depends on what their team management, what the front office and the field manager want to get out of it.

Q: Do you have a video library of all these guys?

A: What I keep is a digital library. It’s all computer-driven at this point, and the guys can come in and they can call up all of their at-bats, all of their hits, what they did in certain situations. If they just want to watch a certain game, they can kind of pick and choose

exactly what they want to see. And then, sit there and watch whatever it is they were looking for.

Q: Is that every at-bat of every game for the entire season?

A: Every at-bat of every game that we’ve played the last two seasons is what I have right now. The stuff from Montreal is a little less reliable right now, but since we moved to D.C., yes, we’ve gotten everything.

Q: How long have you been doing this?

A: I’ve been doing it since about 2004. I started with the Milwaukee Brewers and we used a lot of this for advanced scouting purposes, which we do here as well. I started out there as an intern and then moved on and did some statistical work with the video and then moved down to the Washington Nationals.

Q: So what else goes on with your job? You mentioned advanced scouting. Do you provide video on upcoming opponents?

A: Well, just by the very nature of what we’re doing, we do use some of it for scout video to look at what the other team has been doing and some of their recent performances. [We] see if we can pick out some weaknesses and even some strengths and some plays we want to stay away from.

The coaching staff will look at that and develop a game plan. By the nature of my job as I’m sitting there watching this the entire time, as well. I will have some input, not a whole lot, but a little bit of input as I’ve seen them doing this or this guy is starting to throw a different pitch, that kind of thing.

The software we use actually has the capability of taking the information and creating some statistical reports and some data. So, we know where certain guys are good in the strike zone and where they are bad in the strike zone, where they’re dramatically different against right-handers and left-handers or what pitchers like to throw where, where guys hit the ball in the field. …

Q: How many players come into your office during the course of a day and watch what they’re doing?

A: Quite a few, actually. A lot of guys have really embraced the technology. Some of the other teams are starting to use iPods and the portable hand-held devices. We’re starting to get into that as well.

Most of the everyday players, most of the hitters, will come in at least once a day, some of them more. I know the pitchers like to come in as well. Sometimes they don’t necessarily see me, but they’ll come in with [pitching coach] Randy St. Claire and look at things. I’d say it’s a good portion of our team that will come in and use it.

Q: How did you get into this? Were you always into the camera end of things?

A: Absolutely not. I ended up getting into this almost by dumb luck.

I had decided a few years back that I wanted to do something I really loved and get into the game of baseball.

I had kind of gotten away from it for a while. I went back to graduate school, and in the course of my studies there, I ended up getting hired by the Milwaukee Brewers. I actually left a semester early before I finished, went there [Milwaukee], worked for that

season, went back to school and finished, and then have continued from there. Really, I don’t have any big video background or [audiovisual] background.

Q: Where did you go to graduate school?

A: Ohio University.

Q: Where do you live in the offseason?

A: I just recently moved to Northern Virginia.

Q: Where in Northern Virginia?

A: The Woodbridge area. So, I’m about 40 minutes from the stadium.

Q: How do you like the traffic?

A: I love it.

Q: The technology is so new I’m sure things are going to happen and create new jobs and opportunities. Do you think things will happen in the next year or two that we don’t even know about?

A: Sure. Absolutely. You’ve seen a big transformation. I know I’ve talked to the guys at the Colorado Rockies - they kind of pioneered the iPod use of it - and they’re starting to try and put it on the Trio phones.

I’ve talked to some of our software engineers about putting it on the Microsoft Zoon, maybe the PSP even, we’re constantly running into problems with a lot of that. The iPods are still the best medium for that. But yeah, we’re looking at all avenues that come our way.

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