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Rays to make MLB, technological history

Mark Parker



Major League Baseball officials selected the Tampa Bay Rays to host the league's first Virtual Ballpark game. A virtual Jumbotron will show the traditional broadcast as users participate in immersive experiences. Image provided.

The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field will make Major League Baseball history next week as the first team and stadium to host a virtual regular season game.

Those inside and outside the Trop can watch the Wednesday, Sept. 20 matchup against the Los Angeles Angels from MLB’s Virtual Ballpark. The platform allows fans to view gameplay from any conceivable angle – independent of physical camera location – by digitally reconstructing Sony Hawkeye camera feeds.

The immersive experience includes a Gameday 3D watch party that will open 30 minutes before the first pitch, scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Fans can then create avatars and chat with other virtual attendees through spatial audio.

They can also participate in scavenger hunts, prediction polls and trivia contests throughout the game to score points and win prizes. Yuki Taketani, emerging technologies coordinator for the Rays, told the Catalyst that MLB is the first professional sports league to create such an extensive virtual world.

“It’s a very unique, fun experience for our fans,” Taketani said. “They’re going to be able to see technology in ways they’ve never seen before.”

MLB officials partnered with Improbable M2, a UK-based technology firm, to create the virtual ballpark. Taketani called the company metaverse “masterminds.”

The league beta tested the new tech in July at its Celebrity Softball Game during All-Star weekend. Taketani noted that he offered feedback for the exponentially upgraded final version during that trial run.

The virtual ballpark will now make its regular season debut in St. Petersburg. Fans can join for free with any internet-connected device and their MLB account.

Once connected, attendees can utilize their keyboard, touchscreen or mouse to navigate their avatars inside and outside the virtual ballpark. They can also engage with the program’s myriad interactive features.

The innovative platform capitalizes on MLB’s Field Vision and Gameday 3D technology, which provides a three-dimensional replica of each player’s on-field actions in real-time.

“It’s a beautiful virtual park,” Taketani said. “It’s not heavily pixelated like you might expect from Minecraft or some of those types of games.”

Taketani said users can watch the traditional broadcast from a “huge” virtual scoreboard in centerfield. Attendees will also receive a commemorative NFT ticket from Candy Digital.

He noted that the platform would connect fans living outside St. Petersburg – including those in areas once considered potential destinations for the team in its pursuit of a new stadium. “If you live in Tampa, you can experience this virtual ballpark,” Taketani added.

“If you live in Canada, you can also log into this virtual ballpark and be next to each other inside of this immersive experience. The interconnected tissue of what this technology is bringing together really excites me.”

The Rays have built a reputation for innovating on and off the field. Taketani said MLB officials have noticed that commitment.

Kenny Gersh, MLB executive vice president, said the league is testing the “boundaries of baseball content delivery” in a prepared statement. Taketani said officials realize the Rays are at the technological forefront and strive to provide new, engaging ways to connect with fans.

“We’ve built a good relationship with them,” he added. “And I think … they chose us because of what we’ve done and how we’ve continued to innovate and stretch those boundaries.

“I’m just very excited for fans to experience this new technology, engage with the baseball game like they’ve never done before and see just a little bit of what some of the future capabilities are when it comes to technology and the game of baseball.”

To attend the MLB Virtual Ballpark, visit the website here.


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    September 14, 2023at3:35 pm

    Awesome! Let’s save the City of St. Petersburg (i.e., Tax-payers) and Pinellas County $300,000,000 each by playing all our games in a virtual stadium. Just a thought.

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    September 14, 2023at3:40 pm

    I thought the idea was to get more fans to attend in person. Won’t technology like this encourage more people to stay home and watch virtually?

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    September 15, 2023at1:47 pm

    If we can do this then what is taking the automated strike zone so long?

  4. Avatar


    September 16, 2023at6:41 am

    A.I., the next step toward Armageddon. We’re too blind to see it.
    It’s okay. Like everything else, we’re reactive not proactive.
    We will react once A.I. has us by the baseballs.

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