By Krystle Murphy & Allison Tardif
July 22, 2020
The AVIXA® AV Experience Awards category for Best Individualized Experience celebrates applications where technology creates personalized experiences. The 2020 winner, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, located on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, is an engaging setting that reflects the good nature, humor, and humility of famed New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.
TRITECH Communications collaborated with exhibit designer Responsive Spaces to create the museum’s extremely popular “PITCH!” immersive experience. It allows visitors to face off with an animated batter and catcher and track the ball’s velocity and accuracy. Based on radar readings of the pitch, an umpire responds with a “strike” or “ball” call, along with a fitting “Yogi-ism” ̶ the pithy and paradoxical statements Berra was famous for when speaking with sports reporters – such as “it ain’t over till it’s over.” The response the visitor’s pitch receives is personalized based on their pitch data as recorded on the radar.
James Sprayberry, General Manager of TRITECH’s New Jersey office, led the development and implementation of the technology. Sprayberry’s intimate knowledge and passion for the game of baseball not only gave him additional insight into how to make the attraction realistic but made the project a lot of fun for him and the team. TRITECH provided a wide variety of components for the PITCH experience that were seamlessly integrated to create an attraction that is fun, safe, portable, user-friendly, and maintenance free.
With a design that calls for visitors, including many children, to throw a baseball at a videowall, safety was a unique challenge in this installation. It was also important for the experience to be accurate and appropriate for all ages. That setup translated into multiple technical challenges for the team. What type of ball would provide the most accurate experience? What type of glass would best protect the video displays? There were also challenges around isolating the exhibit audio, providing clear sightlines, and controlling lighting intensity and directionality that the team had to solve for.
“We had to incorporate a lot of technologies along with the standard video wall – a lot of customization and unique solutions – from an integrated radar system to determine the pitch, all the way down to the kind of netting you would see behind home plate on a baseball field,” said Kevin Pelepako, CTS®, Senior Project Manager for TRITECH Communications. “We had to use reinforced glass clear enough and protective enough so balls can be lobbed at the physical exhibition around the AV.”
After the project’s opening, Sprayberry said, “Watching Yankees greats and Hall of Fame players getting excited as they threw the plastic balls at the image of Yogi in his famous stance, was one of the most rewarding experience of my life. I knew we’d hit it out of the park.”
Eve Schaenen, Executive Director of the Yogi Berra Museum, said, “When we envisioned PITCH, we knew we would need true experts … for such an ambitious installation … Simply put, Sprayberry and his colleagues were all in, every step of the way, from the conception of the interactive exhibition to the day we threw the first pitch to our virtual Yogi Berra and Jackie Robinson. We couldn’t be more pleased.” The museum has become a popular destination for visitors of all ages and valuable resource for school groups and organizations looking to promote the values that Yogi and his legacy represent.