Spring Training has been underway for almost two weeks, filled with promise for the new season, with the prospect of disappointment far off. The same applies, partly, in the media and tech offerings for those of us following the game from outside the US.
ESPN America will soon be broadcasting Spring Training games, but for the second year in a row only from the Grapefruit League in Florida. Repeated e-mails asking why they refuse to carry games from Arizona go unanswered. NASN, which ESPN bought a couple of years ago, carried games from both Florida and Arizona. One wonders why it is so much harder for ESPN to do so? Or is this just another example of the East Coast bias one constantly encounters in American baseball coverage?
Fortunately there is an alternative to ESPN America (which they seem slow in grasping), the many offerings from MLB.tv, including Gameday Audio. The various MLB.tv packages for 2012 have now gone on sale. This year there is a major improvement. Last year, if you bought an MLB.tv package, you could watch and listen to the games on their excellent At Bat iPhone and iPad apps. But you had to actually pay extra for each of the apps, which seemed like a rip-off to many. This year, if you subscribe to MLB.tv, the apps are free. They are supposed to appear today.
But one thing still seems uncertain. If you access Gameday Audio on a computer, not only can you listen to games live, you can listen to any game afterwards on-demand. This feature has not been included in the In Bat apps. This is particularly strange, since you could listen to archived games on a netbook, but not on an iPad. Even if you tried to just access the MLB site with a browser, you couldn’t do anything, because the iPad lacks Flash. Since rival Android tablets and smartphones do run Flash, this restriction makes no sense, and may explain why the apps are suddenly free.
You can watch archived video from games on iPhones and iPads, which can be an alternative. You can stick the phone in your pocket and listen. But this uses up a lot of bandwidth (and many have bandwidth caps) and sometimes the whole thing shuts down if you turn off the screen. And maybe people just want to listen to the radio broadcast.
In the middle of last season I asked Gameday Audio Support if they could consider adding archived games. Their response was along the lines of “that’s a good idea, we’ll think about it for an update”. No such update was forthcoming last season.
In early February I asked the same question again. The response:
The features of the mobile apps for this season are not yet available. They will be released closer to the start of Spring Training games.
We can only hope (although we probably won’t know until the first game of the new season).