‘It’s an evolution of the game’: With GoRout devices, Whitecaps have transformed on-field communication

Through 13 games, the Whitecaps lead the Cape Cod Baseball League in stolen bases with 38, 12 more than the next-best team.

While Brewster possesses a plethora of speedy runners and implements vault leads to gain better jumps, it also utilizes another tool to help it advance ahead of the pack.

The Whitecaps are furthering their on-field communication this season with the use of GoRout, a device that allows coaches to transmit information from the dugout to the field in real-time. According to the company’s Chief Product Officer, Drew Robinson, Brewster is the only team in the Cape League using the device this summer. It’s paying extreme dividends on the basepaths while protecting and simplifying communication within the overall game.

“These watches have been huge, so everyone knows what's going on at the exact same time,” Whitecaps Director of Baseball Operations and Analytics Ethan Kagno said.

These devices look similar to the Apple Watch but in reality, they are small, square-shaped screens that slide into a sweatband. In total, the team has 12 devices, one for each position player, plus the designated hitter and two base coaches. What appears on the screens is up to whichever coach connects on the iPad or a cellular device from the dugout.

With GoRout, coaches can use up to 40 characters to communicate their calls through the watches, allowing them to customize the message with more specificity than the hand signals traditionally used for base runners. The company began with football products in 2014, aiding coaches in communicating play calls more directly in practice. According to Robinson, GoRout works with over 800 football teams nationwide, from youth programs to NFL franchises.

In 2023, however, the company launched its “diamond sports product,” which is made specifically for baseball and softball. Keystone College, where manager Jamie Shevchik and much of the Whitecaps staff work in the spring, quickly acquired the revolutionary product.

At Keystone, like many other baseball programs, Shevchik said the team would go over signs via hand signals for months in the offseason and still screw them up for the first few weeks of the season. In the CCBL, players from programs across the country join together in a short period, making memorizing signs even more challenging. The watches curve that obstacle.

“Out here, you've got five days to learn an elaborate sign system. It's nearly impossible,” Shevchik said. “But now with the watches we can kind of be a little bit more creative, adding a bunch of different signs and really the only skill that you need as a baseball player is to be able to read.”

Bench coach Rocco DePietro uses an iPad to direct the message appearing on each player's watch. | Photo Credit: Julianne Shivers

In its first year using the devices, Brewster has put bench coach Rocco DePietro in charge on the offensive side, using the iPad within the dugout to relay messages as commanded by Shevchik nearby.

Rather than looking across the field to the third base coach for an intricate signal, the base runner looks to their wrist for directions after reaching base safely. When a coach sends in a sign, the device vibrates to alert the player.

On the basepaths, the device simplifies the game, allowing top threats to advance with ease. Whitecaps outfielder J.D. Rogers, who ranks third in the CCBL with eight stolen bases, has used similar devices sparsely at Vanderbilt. With more playing time in Brewster, it’s helped him further utilize his speed.

“When I see that watch, it kind of relaxes me knowing I'm just gonna put my trust into them (coaches),” Rogers said. “And then when it (GoRout) tells me to steal, I'm gonna go ahead and steal.”

The watches also eliminate any chance of the opposition picking up signs to cut down base runners.

“Before, a lot of people could kind of pick up signs through opposing dugouts, it really kind of breaks that up now,” DePietro said. “... On the offensive side, now, nobody knows what the heck you're going to do.”

While the watches help offensively, they also serve as accelerators and protectors defensively. Pitching coach Brian Del Rosso controls what’s displayed when the Whitecaps are on defense. Though each pitcher and situation are different, Del Rosso said the team usually uses PitchCom — a verbal transmitter — or even traditional hand signals when there are no runners on base.

However, when runners reach base, especially second, Del Rosso often switches to GoRout, protecting on-field sign stealing and relaying. The watches can also be implemented for pickoff plays as well as giving position players a head start on reaction time by knowing what pitch is coming and the possibility of the ensuing ball in play.

“It’s an evolution of the game and it’s definitely pretty sweet we have it here in Brewster,” Del Rosso said.

A Whitecaps player wears his GoRout device around his wrist. The devices allow for enhanced, real-time communication. | Photo Credit: Julianne Shivers

Still, the GoRout device is a huge benefit but not always perfect. In the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday against the Bourne Braves, Whitecaps catcher Ryder Helfrick’s watch stopped working in a crucial spot. Helfrick called time and Del Rosso came out and quickly fixed the issue.

With new devices comes more responsibility, especially for the Brewster baseball operations staff. Because the watch is inserted into a sweatband, they often are sweaty and foul-smelling after nine innings of play. Following each game, Kagno assigns one lucky intern to spray down the watches so they are in good condition for the next day.

And then there’s the responsibility of keeping them from being lost or damaged. In one instance, in Falmouth, a Whitecaps player wore the watch on his belt instead of the traditional wrist area. When unbuckling his belt to use the porta-potty at Guv Fuller Field, the device slipped off into the toilet area.

Kagno, knowing he needed to have possession of all of the devices, acquired a grabber reacher and paper towels to retrieve the device. But before he could make it there, another brave Brewster player swooped in with a rubber glove, saving the GoRout.

While adding responsibility and advancing communication among the team, coaches can even use the devices to keep players loose, sending personalized messages and funny notes to break the tension in serious moments.

Overall, the devices are meant to ease communication among players and coaches to allow players to focus more on performing and less on memorization of signals. Adam Bourassa, a former Cape Leaguer and the leader of GoRout’s baseball sales team, says it’s a form of simplification that can elevate players to a higher level.

“It allows them to play the game freely,” Bourassa said. “They're not having to think and overthink. It's like, ‘Okay, this is what we're doing. Let's go, let's roll, let's play.’”

(Photo credit: Julianne Shivers)