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In the News 4-6-11


Take me out to the ball game…or not…

Major League Baseball has already started and the Pro clubs are pushing hi-tech upgrades to their parks to lure the fan that watches from his couch in his living room into watching from a seat live in the VIP box (or just from a seat live).

About a dozen Major League Baseball teams made huge hi-tech improvements to their ballparks in time for the first pitch thrown on March 31st. Here’s a few of the changes that (hopefully) will make going to the baseball park to see a game and get a fifty dollar hot dog worth the investment.

Minute Maid Park.

#1: Houston Astros – Minute Maid Park.

The Astros are one of only three teams in the Major Leagues that now have a scoreboard with a 1080i display format. (The Brewers and the Twins are the other two.) The Astros have gone from having a 26-by-45-foot scoreboard in right field to a 54-by-124-foot Daktronics mammoth (with 2.66 million pixels) that ranks as the fourth-largest scoreboard in the majors. The primary scoreboard has the ability to display side graphics (the old one did, too) or move to full-screen video to capture live action.

Citizen Bank Park.

#2: Philadelphia Phillies – Citizen Bank Park.

Daktronics and the Sony Electronics’ System Solutions Group have partnered with the Phillies to give their fans a view on one of the clearest scoreboards in the world. What used to be a 490,000 pixel scoreboard has now been eclipsed by a 2.9 million pixel model and its LED Technology allows 144 quadrillion shades of color. All in-house video departments have been upgraded from standard to HD, as well. Mark DiNardo, the Phillies’ director of broadcasting and video services, said that this will most benefit the scouting and self-analysis performed by the Phillies’ coaches and players. “They voiced a concern to upgrade,” DiNardo said, “and our management heard that concern.”

Great American Ball Park.

#3: Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park.

Mobile device owners are going to be happy puppies when they go to a Red’s game this season. The incorporation of a multi-tent cell-tower system with approximately 120 antennas will allow fans to access apps like MLB’s latest At Bat on 3G or 4G networks through their iPhones, BlackBerries, iPads and Android devices. The app allows fans to view pitch-by-pitch tracking, real-time box scores and stats and searchable video highlights through a multitude of mobile service carriers. Reds IT director Brian Keys said that roughly 1,500 to 3,000 fans demand high-speed mobile access at any given moment in the stadium, which seats more than 42,000 fans. “We’re trying to get the fans more stats, videos, replays and information to their smart devices,” Keys said. Sixty luxury suites have also been outfitted with 46-inch Sony TVs and 25-inch Sony Vaio flat-panel PCs with Blu-ray functionality. Suite attendees can use the PCs to choose their preference of five camera angles on MLB.TV and view any league game, even ones that are blacked-out and re-route them to the hi-def TVs in Cincinnati.

Tropicana Field

#4: Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field

Thanks to AstroTurf (the official synthetic turf of Major League Baseball), the Rays will now be able to play on a surface that is much more durable and pleasing to the eye. The turf contains a Horseshoe fiber which stands up (literally) to repeated use. The fiber’s omega, or “C”, dual-column design imparts mechanical memory to the fiber, so that it pops up even after repeated trampling by cleats and baseballs. By using 60 ounces of fiber per square yard, the surface will have no problem with great long term durability. In addition, the design reflects light, reducing temperatures by up to eighteen percent, while cutting down on the ballpark light glare.

So basically it comes down to this:

Quit watching the game on HD at home and watch it on HD at the ballpark.

Quit checking updated scores and video replays at home on your iPhone and go check updated scores and video replays on your iPhone at the game instead.

I’m glad the Rays got better AstroTurf.

This all sounds great and everything, but to me there is one thing that kind of stands out:

There isn’t any hi-tech incentive for the hot dog. And isn’t that the whole point of a baseball game at the ballpark?

~ Lori Cline