If you've peeked into the Royals dugout lately, you've noticed that Ned Yost sports a handsome Apple Watch. Along with notifying Ned on the latest weather, sports scores and stock tips, the Apple Watch allows users to receive phone calls and text messages.
This poses an interesting question.
Cell phone use in the dugout is not against the official MLB rules. In 2000, Sandy Alderson, then the VP of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball, issued a memo when cell phone use became ubiquitous, stating:
Please be reminded that the use of electronic equipment during a game is restricted. No club shall use electronic equipment, including walkie-talkies and cellular telephones, to communicate to or with any on-field personnel, including those, in the dugout, bullpen, field and–during the game–the clubhouse. Such equipment may not be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.
However, just last year, MLB implemented new cell phones to replace landline dugout phones. The phones have limited use, and will not work if taken into the clubhouse. Essentially, they operate as the old landline phones did, only with supposedly fewer snafus.
MLB did take notice of Ned's Apple Watch, and asked him about it.
MLB called Ned Yost to ensure he didn't use his Apple Watch during games. He said, "When you're away from your phone, all it is is a watch."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) August 18, 2015
MLB does not allow the usage of cell phones in the dugout. Yost assured them that "it's just a clock."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) August 18, 2015
That seemed to satisfy Major League Baseball, at least for now. However, its not quite technically correct. While the Apple Watch runs off the internet network from your iPhone, when it is away or turned off, the Apple Watch can still use Wifi to send and receive messages via iMessage.
Why should the ability to send and receive messages be illegal? It mostly stems from concerns teams will use it to communicate with others around the stadium to steal signs. The 1951 New York Giants reportedly used an electronic communication buzzer device to relay stolen signs during their play-off game against the Dodgers that culminated with the infamous Bobby Thomson walk-off home run. The Royals have already been accused of stealing signs from second base this week, would they use Ned's Apple Watch to steal signs?
Probably not, but as we've learned from "DeflateGate", teams will use every advantage they can to win. It will be interesting to see if MLB continues to let Ned Yost wear his Apple Watch (ironically, a gift he received from Major League Baseball's office for the All-Star Game) and if other managers begin to follow suit. At the very least, its funny to see Ned Yost at the cutting edge of technology. But hey, the man did develop an app, maybe he's more of a Silicon Valley maven than he lets on.