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TVTI Technologies swings for the fences

Mark Watson remembers the first time he was guaranteed to win the World Series for Major League Baseball (MLB).

Well, that is, when one of his customers was going to win. Hillsboro residents Watson and Ken Rhodes created TVTI Technologies, a Hillsboro-based business that provides video footage of every MLB and National Hockey League game. The videos the business produces are organized on software called “Bats” and “Pucks,” and it allows clients to see a baseball game pitch by pitch and a hockey game line change after line change. The content is designed to provide their clientele — usually athletic scouts for pro teams or players themselves who want to study their competition and improve their own games.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Ken Rhodes (left) and Mark Watson (right) stand in front of rackmount sercvers and various other computer equipment they use to capture, edit, and deliver game footage for their clients.

In 2009, two of their customers — the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies — faced off in the World Series. Seven of TVTI’s customers have won the World Series.

TVTI contracts with 29 out of 30 MLB teams, with only the Los Angeles Angels excluded, and 19 out of 30 NHL teams.

“Our customers say we have a niche that isn’t being filled anywhere else,” said Rhodes. “They’re able to analyze the game mathematically.”

The company records 2,450 baseball games and 1,300 hockey games a year. That’s 14,000 hours of video on what they call “the rack,” a half-million dollar wall of computer equipment that uses multiple cable providers to ensure the games are recorded properly.

After compressing the video to a manageable size, the technicians flow a log of the game and associate the video of a pitch, for example, with that specific log of the pitch. Players, recruiters and coaches can organize all the clips.

Right after a Seattle Mariners player strikes out, he’ll come into the video room next to the dugout and look at the video to see what the pitcher got him out with. With that approach, he immediately has an opportunity to see if he missed something so he’s better prepared next time.

“You can compare video of when you’re doing well to when you’re struggling and see the mechanics of your body, frame by frame,” said Watson.

“In hockey they look for missed opportunities like missed face-offs, line changes and position,” said Rhodes.

Behind Watson’s desk there are shelves of signed baseballs. One has “TVTI, thanks for the video!” scrawled across it. A Tiffany & Co. crystal baseball from the Red Sox sits next to other memorabilia, but a bottle of unopened wine from when the Red Sox were celebrating a World Series championship is Watson’s favorite gift.

“When you’re helping a Yankee, they treat you like a Yankee,” said Rhodes.

Signed jerseys from the Yankees, Minnesota Wild and Red Sox’ Manny Ramirez are framed on the office wall.

For the 11 seasons that TVTI has recorded games, they’ve also built relationships that extend past being business partners.

“It’s common to hear ‘this isn’t a ‘Bats’ question, but you know Excel, right?’” Watson chuckled, recalling the time a player called him while trying to print a Disneyworld ticket for his daughter. Watson helped him convert the ticket to a PDF, and the family was able to go.

“We have jobs because we answer the phone.”

But the calls can be timelier. For example, teams on the road bring their equipment with them. When the game starts in five minutes and computers aren’t connecting to the monitors, Rhodes and Watson get the call.

“Marimba is my ringtone for baseball and it still gives me the chills,” said Rhodes. “I write the software, so if Mark can’t figure it out, that means there’s a real problem.”

There are times where the duo has only half an inning to fix technical problems.

On the other hand, Ramirez’s jersey is on the office wall because when he was playing for MLB, he wanted to study every pitch in his home. TVTI helped him set up a system in his house.

“We run a lot more like a shoe store than a technology company,” said Watson.

Last year, when the National Hockey League had a labor dispute that resulted in a lengthy lockout, the season was shortened from 82 to 48 games. In order not to lay off any of their three other full-time employees, Rhodes and Watson didn’t take paychecks.

TVTI is also creating software for the National Basketball Association. The Portland Trailblazers are high on the list of teams they plan to make a pitch to.

“What’s changed sports for me is the interaction. There’s nothing a guy making $10 million owes me,” said Watson. “I’m a fan of the people who have been nice to me. They can strike out and I’ll say ‘I don’t care, that’s a great guy!’ My daughter says soon I’ll have no one to boo.”




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