Turner Sports Adds Foul-Pole Cam, Cable Cam to ALCS
Gearing up for coverage of the American League Championship Series, Turner Sports has added a host of extra equipment, including two specialty cameras. A robotic camera on the right-field foul pole in the Texas Rangers’ Arlington ballpark will provide a definitive look for umpires and fans alike, and a point-to-point cable cam will run alongside the field of play from the right-field foul pole to home plate.
“We’ve had a foul-pole cam in the LDS for the last couple of years, but it’s a stadium-by-stadium call as to where we can do it and where we can’t,” says Turner Sports director Lonnie Dale. “The right-field foul pole in Arlington presents us a shot looking straight down the foul line, so, if a ball is hit out of the park, we can tilt it up and see the ball go out.”
The Fair-Foul View
More important, he says, the camera pans to the right. At the Rangers’ stadium, the right-field wall attached to the foul pole is situated at a 45-degree angle to the outfield wall.
“That allows us to see is if there is any fan interference or any fans leaning over the wall trying to grab the ball,” he explains. “This camera gives us the definitive look. If the umpires have to look to see if a fan interferes or if the ball hits the top of the wall and bounces over or doesn’t hit the yellow line, this camera will help the umpires to make an easier call because they don’t have to guess. From a replay point of view, there’s no doubt as to whether the ball cleared the wall.”
A foul-pole cam will be installed at Yankee Stadium as well, but Dale does not use that camera for live cuts. “It will get in on a replay scenario, but I wouldn’t cut to it live. It would be too disconcerting to the fans because the ball would change direction on you.”
Also new for the ALCS coverage is a cable cam, running from the foul pole to home plate along the first-base line. Turner used a cable system last season in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia, but this is the first time it has been used in Arlington.
“The cable cam allows us to run over the field and really capture the atmosphere of the fans when something big happens,” Dale points out. “Plus, it allows us to run with the players. If a player is running down first base on a base hit and there’s a play at first or second, it gives you movement through the play, so it’s not stationary. Instead of just moving the lens, now we’re moving the camera as well.”
Turner’s new-look PITCHf/x system will continue to be deployed throughout the ALCS coverage, and Dale says the reception to the graphic representation of each pitch has been encouraging.
Yankee Stadium presents something of a challenge to Turner’s extended equipment complement. Dale uses a camera down the left- or right-field line to track the flight of the ball, which he refers to as a golf shot. In past years, Yankee Stadium did not have cable runs to the location where he normally places that camera, but, this year, cable was run to that spot, so the ALCS coverage from New York will feature a golf shot for the first time.
John Smoltz, a member of the Turner on-air team, told Dale that, in the postseason, a walk is a rally. Dale took that statement to heart in his coverage.
“Every pitch counts and every inning counts,” he explains. “Everything is magnified, so we have to make sure that we have every play covered and the foul lines completely covered. We just document it, but, if a play is not called correctly on the field, we have to make sure that we have the definitive look at it, whether it’s a catch, a tag, or if the ball is fair or foul. When you get to this level, our fans expect that we can show them everything.”
Dale expects the fans in Arlington, in particular, to create some electric atmosphere during this series. “The Cowboys aren’t playing well locally, and that helps us,” he smiles. “I think the fans are going to be excited because it’s been so long since the Rangers have been in a game of this magnitude. I think the fans are really going to be pumped up for it.”