T-Mobile announced a partnership with Major League baseball at the 2013 CES in Las Vegas (image credit David Becker/Getty Images)
Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY Sports
The dugout phone, a staple of virtually every pitching move in baseball, may soon join relics like the bullpen car, the collared jerseys of the Chicago White Sox and the 50-cent ticket on the game's scrap heap.
In announcing a "multi-year, multi-million dollar deal" that made T-Mobile the game's official wireless carrier, Major League Baseball said T-Mobile will create an on-field communication system, most notably a wireless voice system that connects managers in dugouts to coaches in bullpens.
It also plans to significantly improve fans' ability to connect to networks and interact within the ballpark, as well as enhance MLB's advanced-media offerings on smartphones and tablets.
But the gains may not be as tangible to the average fan as what will be lost - the dugout/bullpen phone tag.
One manager, the San Francisco Giants' Bruce Bochy, will welcome the enhanced technology.
"I think it's about time," Bochy told USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale. "We've had some phone issues in some parks. Hopefully, this will make it easier to communicate.
"There's no worse feeling when something happens, you make a call and you can't communicate. This makes sense. It's happened to a lot of clubs."
The system won't go live in every ballpark in 2013, so the dugout phone lives on at least another year in some markets.
So the sound that has sent many a rookie reliever's heart into overdrive - that bullpen phone ringing - will still be heard.
And the occasional mix-up - such as St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's ill-fated summoning of Marc Rzepczynski in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series - may soon occur. Though the Cardinals won that Series in seven games, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist did not hear La Russa's order to also get right-hander Jason Motte warm. Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli then delivered the game-winning hit off the left-handed Rzepczynski.
"It was a mix-up," La Russa said after that game. "And that's all I'm going to say."
Well, those mix-ups may give way to a fool-proof, wireless mode of communication very soon. And another scrap of tradition will go with it.