I’ve always been a huge baseball fan.  In recent years, however, I’ve begun focusing even more on the sports, while losing some focus on the other sports.  I haven’t followed the NBA much since Magic retired, and my interest in the NFL has waned in recent years.  I have baseball thoughts 365 days a year.  There has never been a better time to follow the sport, as technology lets fans get up to the minute information.

Here are some tools I used to follow baseball.

MLB Extra Innings

I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings on Direct TV.  I actually think the price point is pretty decent.  You pay roughly $200.  Compare this to the $300+ that the NFL package costs – for 1/10 the games – and Extra Innings seems like a pretty good deal.  Next year, I’ll drive the price down a bit more by getting MLB.TV instead of Extra Innings.  For about $50 less, I’ll watch the games streaming through my net-enable Blu-Ray player (upstairs) or Roku (downstairs).  A benefit is that I’ll also be able to stream audio on my Palm Pre.

I like MLB Extra Innings, but it’s not without flaws. 

First and foremost is MLB’s archaic blackout policy.  Baseball teams have territorial rights, and if you live in that team’s territory, the games cannot be viewed through MLB Extra Innings (and can only be viewed on a delayed basis on MLB.TV).  The basic idea is that the local cable affiliate has rights to the games, and that you can view the games there.    That’s OK if you’re in Boston and only the Red Sox are blacked out.  But if you’re in Iowa, the Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Brewers, and Twins are all blacked out (until recently, the Royals were also blacked out).  The Cubs are often available on local channels, the White Sox are sometimes available, the Cardinals are rarely available, and the Brewers and Twins are never available.  It’s frustrating to have a Rockies game blacked out because they happen to be playing the Brewers.  Even though the Brewers claim Iowa as part of its home territory, there are absolutely no Brewers fans in Iowa.  MLB need to re-draw territorial rights boundaries soon.  They are leaving a lot of money on the table.  Just in Iowa, there are tens of thousands of Cardinals fans who are unable to watch any of their team’s games.  It’s likely that a significant number of these people would pay $200 for Extra Innings if they could watch Cardinals games.  I fail to see the downside to this.

It’s great that you can choose to watch either the home or road team’s broadcast of the game – unlike the NFL, where you get stuck with only one option.  I really can’t figure out why DirectTV doesn’t simply dedicate one channel for each team.  Foe example, make channel 742 be the Rockies channel.  On any given day during the season, I could just flip to channel 742 for the Rockies game.  Having to scroll through the list of available games to find the one I want is mildly annoying.

Finally, Extra Innings gives you only the game – none of the pre and post game coverage and interviews.  Seriously, throw the viewers and bone and include these features.

Palm Pre

A while ago, I purchased a used (and slightly battered) Palm Pre for a good price, and have used it as a portable WiFi device (the phone portion is not activated).  This has been a great tool for keeping up to date on scores and stats.  I use a premium app (meaning that it cost a whopping $1.99) called Baseball Live.  The home screen of the app lists all the games.  You can easily click to get to a detailed information about the game.  Based on your settings, you’ll get either the MLB.com or ESPN widget for the game.  You could get the same end result by going directly to MLB.com or ESPN, but the Baseball Live app provides a more convenient interface.

Podcasts

I’ve only recently begun seeking out podcasts.  I complain (a lot) about the lack of baseball coverage on sports talk radio.  There are several baseball podcasts that can alleviate this.  By far the best is the Up and In podcast from baseball think tank Baseball Prospectus.  Baseball Prospectus is a serious organization, published several books every year.  Up and In throws this aside and is a very informal (and often R-rated) chat between two colleagues (and occasional guests).  Baseball Prospectus managing partner Kevin Goldstein hosts the show with Jason Parks.  They cover a variety of topics in both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.  The show generally rambles on for about two hours (with frequent detours to random non-baseball topics).  I’ve enjoyed Up and In so much that I decided to purchase a membership to BaseballProspectus.com – mostly to get the minor league insights from Goldstein.

I also listen to the ESPN Baseball Today and Fangraphs podcast.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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