Taking the Field in Daylight, Not Dreams

The crack of the bat. The smell of freshly cut grass. The warmth of the sun set against a blue sky. These are just some of the elements that make baseball one of the greatest sporting events to attend. Baseball is a sport designed to be played outdoors. While domed stadiums make a certain amount of sense in the hot Arizona desert or for cold Milwaukee springs, the Texas Rangers play in the heat while the Minnesota Twins play, occasionally, in the snow. As children, we grow up playing baseball until the sun goes down. Whether we are playing or watching, baseball is a game tailor-made for lazy Saturday afternoons. While Saturday falls once a week, Major League Baseball gets the chance to showcase baseball on three days during the “summer.”

Three days of each baseball season are holidays for many Americans: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. These are holidays without the traditional family commitments. Rather they are days of relaxation designed around barbecues, fireworks, going to the beach, or just lounging around the backyard with a radio.

The first rule of these days: every team should play. Now that the leagues have been evened and interleague play is a season-long event, there should be sixteen games on each of the three holidays. MLB is close: all thirty teams will be in action on Memorial Day but two will sit out on each of the next two holidays. The second rule: play games during the day.

Over the past five seasons, including the balance of 2013, Labor Day has been the most consistent holiday for day baseball (defined for the purposes of this article as games starting before the end of the 4pm hour on the East Coast), with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July demonstrating a lack of emphasis on this aspect of scheduling. This is strange when considering Bud Selig’s work during his tenure as Commissioner. Whether you agree or disagree with his moves, Selig has spent just over two decades attempting to improve the fan experience. Interleague play, the World Baseball Classic, Home Run Derby captains, and making the All-Star Game “count” are all measures aimed squarely at the fans.

Although the WBC is aimed at cultivating baseball on a global scale, the finals are still played in the United States, and the atmosphere, set just before March Madness, is that of a playoff tournament. The WBC is trying to be the kind of baseball seen in the postseason: games are happening all the time and teams are being eliminated in epic matchups (or so they hope).

Part of the magic during the WBC, NCAA tournament, and the MLB postseason lies in the quantity of games being played. Only during Opening Day, and to a lesser extent, the rest of that week, does baseball feature a large number of day games allowing workers, students, and fans of all ages the opportunity to follow along with games staggered throughout the day starting at noon and ending past midnight on the East Coast.

People like to be immersed in their sports. As baseball fans this is hard to keep in mind at times because the season is so long. However, most games on any particular day start between 7pm and 10pm Eastern time. The chaos is confined. This is not an indictment of prime time baseball. Both for economics and availability this schedule makes sense during the week – but on the weekend, and even moreso, holidays, the chaos and excitement should be overflowing.

This is a plan executed every Sunday by the NFL. A few games start every couple hours leading up to a primetime game on Sunday night and then the showcase that is Monday Night Football. This strategy brings in football fans and fantasy players, encourages cable packages to ensure access to every game, and if that isn’t enough, NFL RedZone is a non-stop highlight reel. And that is every Sunday from September to January.

MLB could start with three days. Three days where fans are ready to relax and have fun, following an endless stream of baseball.

Cross-posted at The Sports Post

Get Ready for the Baseball Season With These Apps

Baseball is back! The first game, a Texas showdown where the Rangers welcomed the Astros to the American League was on Sunday. All thirty teams will have 162 games between now and October and no fans enjoy staying connected more than baseball fans. And the best way to keep on top of your favorite team, fantasy team, stats, and players are the apps.

At Bat 2013

At Bat can be the beginning and the end of a baseball app list because it fills your life with baseball. At Bat is a scoreboard, team tracker, radio, and television. Depending on the subscription pack you sign up for, ranging from free to $129, At Bat will provide scores, radio broadcasts, television streams or all of the above. What makes At Bat special is that it lives beyond your phone: just log in on your PC and stream audio or video. You can set it up on your Apple TV, Xbox 360, or PS3. Getting a new BlackBerry phone at work? It’s even on BlackBerry and the Kindle Fire. If you have an Android phone, you can put a scoreboard widget right on your homescreen. Keep baseball in your pocket.

MLB.com At Bat

At the Ballpark

A companion to At Bat, At the Ballpark handles your experience going to a game. A free app, At the Ballpark lets you check in to the game, track the games you’ve attended over the last few years (though only as far back as 2005), and puts a map of the park in your hand. This may not sound that exciting, but Major League Baseball doesn’t think small. The eventual killer features of this app are food and beverage ordering and ticket upgrades. Both are currently in a select number of test markets: Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia), Minute Maid Park (Houston), Chase Field (Phoenix), CitiField (New York) and Marlins Park (Miami) for food and beverage ordering and Turner Field (Atlanta), Target Field (Minneapolis) and O.co Coliseum (Oakland) for seat upgrades.

If the only thing that sounds interesting to you here is the ability to change your seat when you find yourself behind a pole or spot a prime seat that no one is using, keep Pogoseat in mind. Right now Pogoseat is only in a couple locations on the west coast, but competition might force MLB to roll out their solution sooner.

MLB At the Ballpark is available for Android and iOS devices.

Fantasy Sports

Yahoo! and ESPN are both back with new editions of their fantasy baseball apps, depending on which service you use for your fantasy league. While neither app is a breakaway success, both get the job done. You can set your roster, search for new players, and keep your team up to date. Neither is as full-featured as the full desktop application, which for Yahoo is not designed for touch and is not as nice an experience on a tablet as it could be, but both get the job done.

Both apps are available for iOS (Yahoo)(ESPN) and Android (Yahoo) (ESPN)

Score Keeping

Maybe you are the guy or gal who goes to a game and buys the program every time just to get the scorecard. There’s something about filling in each box along with the pros and making a more personal record of the events of the game. But face it, you’re living in the past. Don’t worry though, because technology is here to bail you out: iScore is the classic scorecard formatted to fit your favorite gadget. You can keep score, track pitches, chart hit locations, and more. And the best part is you can use it for any baseball or softball game – major league, minor league, little league, you name it.

iScore is available for iOS and Android.

Twitter for Sports

One of the biggest changes in how data is consumed these days is the idea of the stream versus the inbox. Email is an inbox, it shows what you have read and what you still need to read. Twitter is a stream. Twitter doesn’t care if you read everything from everyone you follow, just that information flows past and you are free to dip in and out of the steam as you choose. Whenever you want to consume some content, just fire up an app and dive in. The final apps in today’s look are bringing this model to sports.

Fanboat is designed to be like Pandora for sports. (Full disclosure, I helped create Fanboat) When the app is launched simply follow your favorite teams and Fanboat will begin to learn what teams and players you like. At the end of every game, Fanboat pulls in the box score and breaks down events in a game – home runs, three pointers, passing yards, you name it – and displays the more significant (ie. a home run instead of a single, a hat trick, multiple touchdown receptions) feats and lets the user explore the game from these jumping off points. Instead of waking up in the morning and reading the sports page or watching an hour of SportsCenter, anyone can get a personal digest of the sports most important to them.

Fanboat is available for iOS.

Fancred is a community for sports fans. When you follow someone on twitter you see comments they make, stories they share, links and pictures they post. The same is true on Fancred. Like twitter, you create an account, have followers and can follow people, but you filter your feed based on the teams you root for. If you like the Red Sox you can sort to show what Sox fans have been posting or what stories have been posted that are about the Red Sox. Unlike arguing with strangers on twitter or blogs about which team is good and which, well, “sucks” on Fancred you can converse with the fan community you’re a part of and if you don’t agree with someone you don’t need to follow their posts. As you post more and your posts are voted up, your Fancred score increases, showing that you are a passionate fan. What’s more, Fancred is a local company, based right here in Boston!

Fancred is available for iOS.

Cross-posted at Sports of Boston