“I know how it works, but I’ve got to get up to speed in a hurry,” he said. “It’s going to take some getting used to — seeing all those screens, knowing which ones to look at again, making a decision in a few seconds.”
Harlin certainly is used to watching baseball on a video monitor. Excluding the birth of his son and his father’s funeral, the Eagan native, a Twins employee for 23 years including more than a decade as media-relations manager in the Metrodome days, has watched every pitch of every Twins game since becoming video coordinator in 2006 — yet he never has seen one of them live.
“I hear Target Field is pretty nice,” he joked from his office deep inside it, just off the home clubhouse. “I’d like to see a game there someday.”
Practice time is over
That’s off in the future, though, as he helps Minnesota adapt to baseball’s new era. He has worked with Gardenhire, Molitor and the coaching staff to prepare for the changes, and he is not the only one.
Former major league manager Joe Torre, now MLB’s executive director of baseball operations, is in charge of implementing the system, and he sent another Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russa, to each spring camp to explain the system to managers and answer their questions.
“They’ve made it clear that this is the starting point, that they don’t expect it to be perfect right from Day 1,” Gardenhire said after his meeting with La Russa. “They’re going to make changes to the system once we see how well it works.”
The replay rules were in effect in a handful of spring games to get teams and umpires used to it, but Harlin was limited to watching the broadcast of the game, usually with only two or three cameras — and not always high-definition — with no ability to cue up replays on his own.
“We practiced the procedures, which was good. But it wasn’t what it’s going to be like during a real game,” he said. “I’m planning to check every play for a while, just to become fluent in the process.”
It became apparent during spring training that umpires will be generous about consulting replays from the seventh inning on, just to prevent being embarrassed by a missed call that isn’t corrected. Having an umpire put on a headset might soon be as ubiquitous as having basketball referees going to video monitors to review out-of-bounds and timing issues during NBA and NCAA games.
“I think they want to get it right, so they’ll be under the gun a little bit. They’ll say, I don’t want to be on ESPN tonight, so let’s check it,” Gardenhire said. “But it’s going to go fast. They’ll have a decision as soon as they put on the headset, right away.”
That’s the speed Harlin is hoping for, too. He knows his job has changed, from monitoring a game to perhaps helping to decide its outcome.
“Somebody tweeted that video coordinators may now be the difference between winning or losing. I’m actually excited about that, excited that I can contribute, even if all I’m doing is providing information so Gardy can make a decision,” Harlin said. “For [General Manager] Terry Ryan and Gardy to have that faith in me, it’s really an honor.”