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Jason Giambi Helps Baseball Practice Go Virtual

The former baseball star is keeping his hand in the game through a new virtual reality practice system.
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Jason Giambi now spends his time taking care of his young children rather than clobbering baseballs. But the former baseball star is keeping his hand in the game through a new virtual reality practice system.

Giambi, 44, gives hitting tips in a training program unveiled last week by Eon Sports VR. Using a virtual reality headset, players simulate at-bats, gauging balls and strikes and pitch delivery.

"You actually feel like you're facing the pitcher. He's going through his windup, he's going through his pitches. You can even pick up seams on the baseball," Giambi told CNBC.

Eon, founded in 2013, and other companies have rolled out virtual reality simulators to supplement practice in a variety of sports. Eon makes a football simulator already used from the high school level to the National Football League.

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For the baseball program, called Project OPS, users pay for software and Eon's Sidekiq headset. They download the software on a smartphone and link it to the headset.

Eon is selling pre-orders of the headset, software and a Bluetooth controller for $159 through Dec. 14.

Giambi, who played 20 major league seasons, said virtual reality benefits developing players who can use more repetitions to recognize balls and strikes. As players advance through lessons, they gradually face a rotating set of full-speed fastballs, curve balls, change-ups and sliders.

Giambi believes the software can have a broad reach, in part because smartphones are the most expensive component.

"We want every kid to have the opportunity to get better," he said. "This is accessible for every child."

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Eon declined to give order numbers for the baseball simulator. But its total sales have jumped 300 percent in the past year, and baseball has strong growth potential, said founder and CEO Brendan Reilly.

"Baseball presents a huge opportunity and the demand for Project Ops is at an all-time high," he said.