In a first-of-its-kind move, the Miami Marlins have partnered with The Famous Group and kamikaze drone pilot Jay Christensen of JayByrd Films to create a unique pre-game hype video that includes a drone flying into Jacob Stallings’ catcher’s mitt.
Other daring shots in the video include National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcántara intentionally throwing a pitch straight at a drone and hitting it perfectly, and infielder Luis Arráez hitting a virtual home run and then literally whacking the drone with his bat flip.
Christensen, who is referred to as "The Top Gun Maverick" of drone pilots by his colleagues, operated the drone from behind home plate or a dugout, swerving it between the legs of infielders Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jean Segura while they were taking simulated at-bats. The pilot also chased sky-high fly balls with the drone, as well.
"The players instantly changed their demeanor when they saw drones," said Eric Burak, The Famous Group’s Executive VP, Production. "Jazz Chisholm was asking if he could fly the thing."
While aerial cinematography is gaining steam as an art form, the Marlins are the first Major League Baseball team to integrate unmanned flying objects into a live action camera shoot with players. According to the Marlins' VP of Marketing, Tiago Pinto, the team wants to incorporate this type of technology to cater to their audience.
The Marlins drone idea was initially brainstormed by The Famous Group’s lead creative editor Steve Davis, who immediately thought of JayByrd Films when he heard that the team would provide access to loanDepot park. Christensen had flown drones through bowling alleys, Fenway Park’s NHL Winter Classic, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ arena. But having access to the Marlins players and ballpark had him salivating.
Told they’d be creating a hype video for home Saturday night Heritage games — when the Marlins wear red City Connect jerseys — Christensen and his colleague Erik Nelson brought a Rotor Riot Skylight, an FPV drone that can be fitted with various cameras. They attached a GoPro for the curving shots in between the legs of Chisholm and Segura and a 4K, 420 frame-per-second Freefly Wave camera to depict Alcántara throwing a fastball.
The Marlins assured their players it was okay to "knock the drones askew," and the team believes it is catering to its audience by incorporating drone technology. While drones have been a recent security concern for the NFL and MLB, teams, leagues, and broadcast networks are also deploying drones to get a superior point-of-view of athletes.
For instance, Fox Sports just flew a drone for the first time inside an indoor basketball game at Madison Square Garden’s Big East Tournament, and the network also uses FPV drones to chase 150 mph race cars during NASCAR telecasts. However, for the most part, those drones were behind the scenes.
In the case of the Miami Marlins, they have chosen to place drones front and center, creating a buzz around the team and its innovative use of technology in sports.