Friday, April 17, 2009

iPhone App: MLB At Bat

MLB At Bat is the big daddy of iPhone apps. It comes in two versions:

Lite - Free

The lite version is nothing more than a real-time scoreboard. It's barely worth the price (free).

Full - $9.99

The full version gives you so much more. In a word, it's awesome. Here's what you get:

- Real-time scores, including box scores and scoring summaries, of every game
- Video highlights of key plays minutes after they happen. Not just scoring plays, but key defensive grabs and other important moments.
- Live play-by-play using the GameDay engine. You get pitch-by-pitch updates and more.
- Best of all, radio broadcasts of every game. You can even choose home or away broadcasters.

How well does it work? Not perfect. I've experienced quite a few kinks in the system. Last night, for example, I wanted to listen to Vin Scully's play-by-play of the Dodgers-Giants game, but I kept getting an inexplicable error message. The Giants broadcast worked fine (and Jon Miller is the best in the business anyway, so it wasn't much of a problem), but I was disappointed in not hearing Scully.*

*In fact, listening to Vin Scully is the main reason I bought the At Bat application. He's been with the Dodgers for 59 years, but I've never lived in L.A. so I never really got to hear him except occasional TV broadcasts. This is my chance to hear him before he retires, whenever that will be.

I've used the audio over both Wi-Fi and 3G, and both generally worked. There are occasional hiccups and you'll lose the feed periodically, but in my experience, the feed comes back pretty quick (except the Scully example above).

The GameDay play-by-play is spotty at times. It doesn't always keep up with the action, but it usually catches up after a while.

Bottom Line

In spite of the hiccups, which I'm sure MLB Advanced Media is working on, getting the At Bat app is a no-brainer. The audio is rekindling my love for play-by-play broadcasting (which I used to do myself, though not very well), and I'm finding myself listening to games I don't have much interest in. The live box scores are great for tracking my fantasy players. And the GameDay updates are great for following games at lunch or on the couch.

If you're an iPhone-owning baseball fan, what are you waiting for?

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