Break out the peanuts and crackerjack: Major League Baseball is about to hit a home run.
Wednesday, Feb. 29, Major League Baseball will relaunch its wildly popular MLB At Bat app for 2012 with a whole host of cool changes for fans from Kansas City to Chicago, the Back Bay to the San Francisco Bay. MLB granted me an exclusive first look at the season's new offerings -- and this Phillies fan is thrilled.
The MLB.TV package lets you watch every out-of-market game live or on demand on your smartphone or tablet. It's a beautifully designed piece of software that's become an indispensable part of my baseball season.
In 2012, MLB will unveil a universal app for Apple devices. Previous versions of the software required you to purchase separate apps for iPad, iPhone or an iPod touch -- and buying them a la carte ran you about $30. This year you can get the apps for free and buy a season-long subscription for $14.99.
What does $15 bucks buy you? Quite a bit. You get live gameday audio of every team, pitch tracking, and play-by-play updates, plus a free live videostream of one game per day, as selected by MLB. The same offering applies to Android devices and comes with a similar pricetag.
While you might not think twice to shell out $14.99 for a ticket to an actual game, that price can seem steep in the world of app purchases. That's why MLB will now allow you to pay $2.99 on a month by month basis, another new change for 2012. Want to skip your team's hitting slump during the dog days of Summer and go right for September? The a la carte plan is for you.
What if you already subscribe to MLB.TV to watch games on your computer, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, or whatever? You get the $14.99 app subscription for free, something I've been doing for years. I pay $125 per year to watch games on pretty much any Internet-connected device all season; now I get the app experience as an added bonus without having to buy costly software.
There are of course black-out restrictions according to market. That's frustrating to be sure -- and that's the way it goes. For now.
Also launching this season is a separate location-based app. For those days when you are lucky enough to go to a game, you can check in for rewards and team offers, get parking information and concourse maps, and have access to mobile food ordering in any ballparks that offer such features.
Other features include closed captioning, the ability to send a text message to security officials, and social sharing to your networks like Facebook and Twitter. It will not however help you buy or sell scalped tickets so don't ask.
All this kicks off on March 3 with Spring Training games -- so you won't have to wait much longer to watch your boys of summer.