MLB All-Star Game provides new perspective with SkyCam debut

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

A sports broadcasting staple will finally be a part of the MLB All-Star Game. For the first time ever, SkyCam will be among the primary cameras Fox Sports plans to use during its All-Star Game broadcast this Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington DC.

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According to a Forbes’ report, the network is aiming to give fans a perspective unlike any they’ve seen while watching baseball. If nothing else, we’re sure its inclusion will have people talking.

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What is SkyCam?

SkyCam is a computer-controlled, stabilized, cable-suspended camera system that has become a regular part of national television broadcasts in every major sport, including ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.

The first notable SkyCam experiment took place during a 1984 NFL exhibition game. It wouldn’t become a regular part of sports broadcasts until 2001, when the XFL used a SkyCam as one of its primary cameras. Since then, the NFL, NBA, NCAA football and basketball, and the NHL have all regularly incorporated SkyCam into its broadcasts, particularly in high profile games.

It’s also utilized by every major network, including Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS, ABC and NBC, but this could be its most significant usage in MLB.

Why is Fox Sports bringing the SkyCam to baseball?

According to the Forbes’ report, the All-Star Game’s host ballpark, Nationals Park, is designed in a manner that makes using SkyCam more feasible than other MLB ballparks. To them, it’s the best ballpark to experiment with SkyCam and determine whether it has a future in their baseball broadcasts.

Fox Sports is reportedly going all out on its production of the MLB All-Star Game. Their set up, according to Awful Announcing, will include an additional aerial camera in the stadium in the event SkyCam doesn’t pan out. There will also be 35 HD cameras, eight super slo-mo cameras, and two extra-slo-mo cameras. At least 70 microphones will be embedded all over the field in order to capture the most authentic sound.

Get ready for SkyCam at the MLB All-Star Game. (AP)
Get ready for SkyCam at the MLB All-Star Game. (AP)

Does SkyCam make sense for broadcasting baseball?

On the surface, it feels more like a problem waiting to happen than an actual improvement on the broadcast.

As noted, ESPN first used SkyCam during its Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts in 2005.  The camera is typically mounted more than 20 feet above the stands in foul territory, running up and down the first or third base line to the foul pole. It’s certainly a different perspective, but it pales in comparison to other sports. 

It’s a better fit for football, soccer and even basketball, because the shape of the field or court is similar and easy to work around. There’s also less concern about the SkyCam interfering in the action because it’s typically high enough off the ground to avoid the action. Even still, there have been close calls.

To get that perspective in baseball, SkyCam would have to be even higher off the ground or removed from the field of play to ensure that the wires or the camera itself won’t interfere in the action. Maybe not to the extreme of the Tampa Bay Rays stationary overhead camera at Tropicana Field, but close.

For the MLB All-Star Game experiment, Fox Sports is reportedly playing it safe by using a “WildCat” system that runs back and forth across left and center field. The camera will be following the action from outside the field of play, and apparently will hover mainly over the bullpens.  

Only time will tell if that perspective is enough to interest fans and make SkyCam a staple on Fox Sports baseball broadcasts. But they’ll never know until they try.

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