Baseball getting digital offerings in mid-season form

Don’t look now, MLB Advanced Media, but Willie Geist is on to your game. Speaking at a fan event in New York Tuesday night aimed at showcasing new offerings from Major League Baseball’s online and mobile arm, Geist, host of TV’s Morning Joe, joked that the expanded feature set for MLB’s At Bat 2013 app gives baseball fans an excuse “never to talk to another human being again.”

It’s funny because it’s true. Baseball is a great ice-breaker, but it’s also critical to keeping yourself entertained during an endless family reunion or evening commute. MLB Advanced Media has smartly expanded its offerings for both contingencies with better stat-sorting, more convenient log-ins across devices, and myriad ways to waste time at work and/or avoid your weird cousins.

The updated MLB.com At Bat app actually arrived on Android and iOS last week, but Tuesday night’s event gave MLB Advanced Media an opportunity to go into greater depth on what fans can expect for the 2013 season:

Log in to At Bat 2013 anywhere. In previous years, if you wanted to use At Bat 2013 on an Android and your iPad, you had to have a separate account for each device—meaning you had to pay out on each device to access the good stuff. For the upcoming season, one log-in—and one $20 payment—will do the trick for any and all devices, from iPhone to Kindle to Xbox 360. Even BlackBerry 10 devices will have access as of opening day. (MLB.TV Premium subscribers can use the app gratis.)

Listen to At Bat 2013 anywhere. Subscribers get live Gameday Audio on Macs and PCs as well as portable devices—a must for those weekday day games you’d otherwise miss while at work.

The 2013 update to At The Ballpark hasn’t been released yet, but when it does, expect more location-aware features.

Get anywhere within the app. The navigation isn’t perfect, at least on a Droid, where flipping between MLB’s At Bat and the At The Ballpark apps can cause a force-close (at least for now; once the season starts and app updates come along, that’ll probably improve). But the navigation has undergone an upgrade, and even for sausage-thumbed fans who exit apps by mistake all the time, it’s easy to find news, adjust font size, and share content.

While away rainouts with classic video. At Bat already includes a healthy library of vintage games going back to the early 1950s, but MLB plans to expand the offerings as the season continues. For fans who love the game’s history, have never heard Joe Garagiola call a game, or want to take a brief and hilarious tour of 20th-century chyrons and sports fonts, the classic-video library could make a long line at the DMV almost desirable.

Win bar bets faster. The sortable-stats feature introduced for 2012 has expanded to include iPads and Android devices. Search capability for video highlights is also expanded, so the next time a round of beers is riding on footage of the Denkinger call, you can drink up.

Personalize your ballpark experience. The updated At The Ballpark hasn’t launched yet, but the 2013 version will be able to figure out where you’re watching and curate Instagram photos and local tweets based on that location. The 2013 app allows retroactive check-ins at games dating back to 2005, and future updates will extend that timeline even further back—in other words, that first game your dad took you to at the late great Shea Stadium. We can’t wait to brag about seeing Dwight Gooden’s first home run.

Skip the lines. Well, in theory. The Fan Pass card isn’t new, but it’s seeing regular improvements, as participating teams already allow fans to load their season tickets (and concessions!) onto Fan Pass cards. Some teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers even permit ticket downloads straight to credit cards—driver’s-license capability will follow in some states—and the Fan Pass could encompass loyalty programs and discounts. The upgrade we want to see: a special entrance for Fan Pass holders that’s the ballpark equivalent of EZ-Pass, speeding regular attendees into the park.

MLB Advanced Media might not have created every feature on the fan wishlist, but in 2013, it’s definitely responded to user feedback and adjusted its mobile offerings to reflect the reality of how and when fans want their baseball and their baseball media.

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