Behind the scenes….video coaching and replays

“I’m not sure I really want to know,” Kevin Camiscioli, Manager, Video Coaching System, laughed when asked how many pitches he sees in a season. He watches every pitch on a monitor throughout the entire Phillies’ 162-game season. It is all part of a video coaching system that is used by the players, the manager and coaches.

When he joined the Phillies in 1996, the system used VHS tapes. “If the pitching coach came to me and asked to see every curve ball a certain pitcher threw, I’d say, ‘ok, but it will take a week to get it to you,’” Camiscioli said.

In the late 1990s digital video came along, a program called BATS. “Game changer” is how he described the new technology. “It really enabled us to generate a lot more scouting reports, spray charts, pitch tendencies, you name it,” he explained. “Chase (Utley) was a student of the game. He’d come in the video room around 2–3 in the afternoon and look at video of that night’s pitcher, his at-bats against him in the past and the pitcher’s other starts, not necessarily against the Phillies. Other players use it, too, but Chase spent the most time. (Roy) Halladay was big on video studies, too.”

Kevin’s work station

Every room in Citizens Bank Park has a home-plate shaped sign mounted next to the door. “Video Coaching” identifies the room located about 20 feet behind the Phillies dugout. It is Kevin’s home away from home. He sits at a console of monitors and keyboards. A large monitor is mounted on the wall, one of four in the room. Directly in front of him is the Major League Baseball replay monitor. With his right hand on a pen pad, he charts the type of pitch, location, velocity, result. His left hand manipulates a keyboard to the MLB replay system. Audio comes from Phillies telecasts or broadcasts.

Elsewhere in the room are seven individual computer/monitors where players can honker down and check their at-bats or pitches or the enemy. Catchers Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp will view video of the enemy hitters they will be facing. Coaches also use the facilities, checking the time an enemy pitcher takes to deliver a pitch. Important base-stealing information. They also view video of enemy outfielders for arm strength and accuracy. “We can also download video to iPads so players and coaches can study at their lockers, in hotels, on buses and at home,” added Camiscioli.

Kevin normally gets to the park around 12 noon-1 p.m. for a home night game. Marc Sigismondo (Coordinator, Video Coaching) starts setting up for the day as early as 9 a.m. “There’s three of us involved, Marc, myself and Brett Gross (Video Coaching Representative, Minor League Operations),” said Kevin. “It’s not a one-man operation anymore.” Once a game has ended, there’s about another hour of work, including maintenance before heading home.

Camiscioli also travels with the team. In addition to bats, gloves, uniforms and the like, four red trunks of video equipment go with the team: 10 laptops, a large external hard drive and plenty of cables. Not every visiting clubhouse has a separate room so he’ll sometimes set up in the middle of the clubhouse. During games, both home and the road, hitters often check out video of their last at-bat. Pitchers usually watch the video after the game or the next day, according to Kevin.

In 2014, Major League Baseball inaugurated instant replay. “Game changer,” Kevin says again. When manager Pete Mackanin wants to question an umpire’s call, Larry Bowa will get on a telephone in the dugout. He’s calling Kevin. “Every team has a system called Hawkeye,” he explains. “It provides 15 different camera angles. It is like a huge DVR, forward, backward, zoom in, zoom out, pause, overlays and split screens.” Kevin relays what he sees to Bowa who lets Mackanin know.

Kevin last saw a game from the stands at Veterans Stadium in 1993. Three years later he became glued to a monitor. For personal reasons, he’s missed a few games, but not many. One wondered what he does when nature calls. “You have to be quick, real quick,” he laughs. “ESPN and FOX have longer breaks between innings. That makes it a little easier,” he laughed again.

For years all major league teams had an advance scout, someone who scouted the next team on the schedule. It was a lonely job and one of endless ballparks, airports, hotels. Three games in Los Angeles followed by two games in San Francisco and four in San Diego, for example. Craig Colbert was the most recent Phillies scout assigned to that duty.

In 2014, as a supplement, Kevin and Marc began sending Colbert videos of every Dodger game that season when he was about to begin a three-game series in Los Angeles. It enabled Colbert to file more detailed reports because he was seeing multiple games instead of three. The next year, the Phillies joined a growing list of clubs who do all their advance scouting through video. They no longer send a scout on the road. Another “Game Changer.”

Then there’s a fourth “Game Changer”, video coaching in the Phillies minor league system, a project Gross oversees. Each minor league ballpark in the Phillies system is equipped with four stationary cameras. Lehigh Valley and Reading may have more camera angles as AAA and AA will have some games on television. All four fields at Carpenter Complex are also equipped with four cameras.

It’s another tool for minor league managers and coaches to use in instructing and developing players. The Phillies have roving instructors who visit different teams. The video is highly beneficial to them. The system allows the Phillies to build a complete video library of every minor league player.

There’s a lot in baseball that hasn’t changed — three outs per inning, nine innings game, nine players per lineup, 90 feet between bases. That was established a long, long time ago. In Kevin’s world, there have been a lot of changes and he’s right in the middle. In case you are wondering, Kevin saw 47,565 pitches in 2014….unless he blinked.

(Kevin’s story, which was written during the 2015 season, is one of many that appears in my book, The Fightin’ Phillies, published by Triumph Books in April of 2016).

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