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4 Essential iPad Apps for MLB 2011: MLB at Bat, Pennant, iScore and SlingPlayer

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4 Essential iPad Apps for MLB 2011: MLB at Bat, Pennant, iScore and SlingPlayer
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See it all on an iPad

With the start of the regular season rapidly approaching and new iPads hitting the market, there are a few apps every true fan of baseball must have. With the arrival of the second generation iPad, the original iPad’s price is dropping to an extremely affordable $320 (16GB WiFi model). 

So, if you own an iPad or plan on getting one, here are some excellent apps that will enhance your baseball experience and accompany you on your way to super-fan status.

This is an in-depth look at four great iPad apps that will help you follow your favorite team, your favorite teams competitors, the Major League as a whole, some baseball history and track your own fantasy superstars and league.  In all but Pennant’s case, there is an iPhone version as well.

MLB At Bat 2011

The return of Major League Baseball’s award-winning app brings with it free streaming of any televised Spring Training games.  Opening the app brings you to the Gameday screen.  The screen consists of either a preview of the days games or a full simulated view of the game being played.

In preview mode, you get a scouting report of the scheduled starters for the day; in game simulation mode, pitches are tracked on the screen as they come towards you with a simulated batter at the plate, there is a small diamond showing the bases and the runners on (if any).

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All simulated players are represented with a small photo of the actual players face.  Click on any photo and that players’ stats appear "baseball card" style.  Another box on the screen displays real time info on the game including detailed pitch-by-pitch and play-by-play descriptions. There is a wealth of game info on this screen and it’s all customizable by the user.

The app also features a news section, which is accessible with a simple tap on the navigational bookmark button. The news screen this year is displayed in magazine-style layout, opposed to last years very plain column view. News articles are identical to those on the MLB.com website. 

However, this new layout seems to make browsing through the articles easier and somehow more fun. Some of the articles also feature video companions that relate to the stories and are playable at the push of a button. Like with other apps, you swipe the screen to turn the page and reveal more stories.

There is also a video feature that allows users with an MLB.TV subscription to watch any regular season out-of-market game being played (all local blackout rules still apply).  If you are a fan of an out-of-market team you will be able to watch all of their games anywhere you go.  You can even choose which teams television feed you wish to watch.  Video quality, by the way, is exceptional, although it will vary slightly depending on your connection.  It is, however, extremely acceptable on any connection.

Do you use Pennant?

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One last mention is the Gameday Audio, which allows you to listen to any teams radio broadcast.  This feature is not subject to blackout rules so you can listen to any game currently being played.  It is interesting to note that Major League Baseball has blacked out all mobile Internet feeds of games through the normal radio stations broadcast. 

In other words, if radio station WXXX owns the radio broadcast rights to team XYZ and you tune in to WXXX’s radio broadcast through your Internet web browser, you will not hear team XYZ’s game broadcast.  MLB’s app is the only way to listen to the digital broadcast of any game.

Pennant

Pennant is an amazing new app that is essentially a database of every game played since 1952.  It includes box scores, play-by-play descriptions and cumulative stats for every team, every player and every game since 1952. And it is unbelievable.

Upon starting the app, you will find a scrolling tile view of every team in Major League Baseball since 1952 listed alphabetically by team name.  It’s interesting to see the teams of the past represented on such a modern piece of equipment.  Represented are The Seattle Pilots, The St. Louis Browns, and the Washington Senators (twice!). 

You will also notice that the different incarnations of each team are listed; The Athletics are listed three times, as Oakland, Kansas City and Philadelphia.  This home screen can also be set to display all tiles at once or as a map of the United States with pinpoints for each team.

Click on a team and the fun begins.  Tiles pop up again, only this time each tile represents a single year of that team.  Displayed on the tile is the team's win/loss record for that year and its’ winning percentage. 

Pick a year and switch to one of the two available views.  One is a pair of pie charts; one showing hitting stats like avg, OBP, and SB, the other showing pitching stats like ERA, CG, and even Saves for the years since the stat came into existence.  The other is of bar graphs displaying the same information in a different format.

But, you can even go further.  Tap on the single year tile and more tiles appear, this time each tile represents a game from that year.  And believe it or not, it has every game, from every year.  Every game tile has the score of that game and the date represented underneath it.  Flick your finger left or right to go through the season.

But wait, there’s more.  Click on the game tile and circle appears.  Starting from the top of the circle is the first inning and around the circle is a play by play account of what happened in each and every at bat.  If you move your finger around the circle you will see every out and every hit.  Tap a button at the bottom of this screen and every player’s name who hit the field that day is listed; hit a players name, see what he did.

There is one last layer to this app.  In addition to the circle and player list views, there is timeline view for each game.  This view has a play button that, when tapped, begins to move forward, playing the game in a text mode.  It will play through an entire account of a game in about 90 seconds.

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Also at your fingertips is a view that lets you see an entire season unfold, allowing you to pick a date and see what the standings looked like at that time.

If you can’t tell, this is really an incredible piece of software.  It’s amazing to go back and breeze through games with historic milestones, like Hank Aaron's history making home run, and actually follow that game as it happens. 

I would also imagine it has untold value in the “settling a bet” department. For anyone that has even the slightest interest in baseball and it’s history, this is a really a tremendous experience.

ESPN iScore

iScore bring the ancient art of baseball scoring into the digital age.  It works exactly as a digital scoring app should.  It is perfect for children who might view the old fashioned way of keeping score as boring and for adults who want to move into the future.

You can start by going to the team manager screen and adding an every day lineup or you can purchase a season pass that will download the teams lineup just prior to game time.  The app is “updated”  daily as players are called up and sent down or go on the DL. 

You can save the every day lineup as a starting point and it will be set for every allowing you to change players in and out as the manager does.  For fantasy gamers, you can add your fantasy lineup and track their performance on a daily basis.  You can create leagues with your fantasy opponents and keep all records of every team  in the league with iScore. 

A handy email feature will let you and your league-mates exchange player info.  The app will even build your team and your league a website for the collection of all the data for individual games and for the season (extra fee applies).

When the game starts, so do you.  You can track every pitch on a virtual strike zone and input speed and location and even pitch type.  Low and outside 88 mph change-up?  Just enter it by touching the corresponding spot on the virtual strike zone and recording the type of pitch and speed. 

You then advance the game in the same manner: by touching the appropriate spot on the screen for any ball movement, including hits, and then choosing the outcome from a list of possible outcomes.  Every situation is covered, from dropped third strike to running out of the base paths.

There are undo and redo buttons to correct mistakes.  And the developers added a notes feature so you can make on-the-go observations that may lend detail to anything in particular.  There is also a running clock to keep track of how long each at bat, inning and game lasts.

The app takes it even further by offering real-time in-game stats for every player.  The stats are cleverly displayed in card style.  Also, at anytime during the game you can email any individual or game stats , making it easy for you to keep your friends up to date of their favorite player. 

Do you use a SlingBox?

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The developers clearly put a lot of time and effort into this app and they were fully aware of how the scoring process worked.  Their attention to detail shines through and as such this is a must have for any score-keeping enthusiast.

SlingPlayer Mobile

SlingPlayer Mobile is not really a baseball app, but really it is.  A Slingbox is a ingenuous piece of audio-visual hardware that was developed by two traveling businessmen brothers who were huge San Francisco Giants fans and didn’t want to miss a single game. 

As men who made their living late at the office and constantly on the road living in hotel rooms, they found the need to be able to watch their favorite team play while they were either far away from San Franciso or in a blackout zone. Like enterprising businessmen do, they recognized a need and they proceeded to fill it. 

The Slingbox attaches to your home television, acting as a middleman betwenn your cable box (or satellite box) and your television.  You then connect it to your internet router.  The box converts your television signal into a digital format and then sends it out over the internet. Using the SlingPlayer Mobile iPad app, you are then able to log in to your Slingbox and watch your home television. 

Not only can you watch your television, but you are also given the ability to control your television.  Through the use of an IR blaster, you can send any of your remote control commands to your television from anywhere in the world.  Change channels, inputs, pause, rewind, anything.

You may ask why you would need this if you already have the MLB At Bat 2011 app.  Well the answer is you won’t be able to watch local games on the MLB app due to blackout restrictions.  With the SlingBox setup you can tune in to your home television and watch your home team while at your friends wedding, or while your wife is trying on clothes at the local Gap, or anywhere.

This is an amazing innovation.  Last summer, my wife and I had to visit my sister who lives an hour away from us, we left at just after 7 p.m. when the game was starting.  It was nearing the end of the season and the playoff race was on; I did not want to miss the game. 

I was able to fire up my SlingPlayer app in the car and watch the game uninterrupted for the entire car ride while my wife drove us to our destination.  The iPad’s ten inch screen provided plenty of real estate to catch all the detail of all the action.  There have been many other instances where the app has saved me but I was really impressed with one.

If baseball is your hobby and you are passionate about it, these apps have the ability to really enhance your experience.  I can’t tell you how much I use these app and how happy I am with them.  Feel free to leave any suggestions you have on other worthwhile baseball apps or ask any questions you have about any of these. 

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