For many sports fans, the first true sign of spring is opening day in Major League Baseball. This year it comes on March 31st, as Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium the first pitch of the 2011 MLB season will cross the plate. A recently retired Yankees pitcher and crossword puzzle enthusiast will throw out the ceremonial first pitch as the Yankees host the Detroit Tigers. Down the coast the Washington Nationals will host the Atlanta Braves at the same time, but the D.C. team will not be graced with the presence of President Barack Obama, who threw out the first pitch last year.
The baseball will dominate the news this weekend (or at least co-dominate with March Madness), but among casual fans the focus on baseball can come in waves. The tricky thing about the sport is that there are games every day, and after the first few weeks of fervidity, it can be hard to stay on top of all the important and intriguing storylines. It can be hard to find the time to watch games or highlights at points during the lengthy season, but there is no reason not to stay on top of all the important news. With that, here are som means to keep abreast of baseball with ease and timeliness, starting with three people that should be followed on Twitter.
1. Jayson Stark, @jaysonst: Stark is one of the best baseball reporters there is, as well as one of the best tweeters, and not just because he supplies his followers with clever and challenging weekly trivia. In a sport where statistics dominate and numbers can often cloud stories, Stark finds that which is important and relevant to story lines in the game. He balances out telling his followers quotes during interviews with intriguing arcane historical facts, and yes, important stats of the day.
2. Matthew Berry, @MatthewBerryTMR: The ‘Talented Mister Roto,’ as he is known, Berry will supply you will all your fantasy baseball needs now through the end of the season. He possess absurd knowledge of rosters, knowing the role of every pitcher right through the top prospects for every club’s farm team. If for some reason you don’t opt to partake in the fantasy aspect of sports, Berry also is useful in alerting followers of lineup changes and injury updates, keeping an eye on the minor leagues and young up-and-comers. It is his job to stay on top of baseball news, and he’s a regular tweeter, so plenty of reason to start following.
3.Stephania Bell, @Stephania_ESPN: a physical therapist, Bell is ESPN’s very charming and very knowledgable injury analyst. She is simply the best source for all injury updates, whether it’s for your fantasy team or your real team. She too is someone who knows what players are likely to rise up through the ranks and fill holes throughout the season. News about injuries won’t go unreported by baseball analysts, but it is from Bell where they get their news first, and now you too can be among the first in the know.
Twitter isn’t the only medium to use this baseball season. If you are true fan of the American pastime, and you have an iPad, you need to check out Pennant, an app that chronicles every play over the last 58 years of baseball. It has every piece of information needed to recount the history of games, players, and team since 1952.
For the mobile, MLB offers an app to follow all the action live, the next best thing to actually watching the game. Pick a game and follow it pitch-by-pitch, knowing the speed and location of every ball, as well as what each batter does with it. At $15.00, it may seem a bit much, but across six months of baseball and anywhere from 72-95 games a week, it’s not a bad deal. It’s available for the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android.
If you don’t want to spend money, download the free app ‘ScoreMobile,’ from The Score network based in Toronto. Also available on all platforms, you can follow live all the box scores, selecting your favourite teams and players to stay up to date on their developments throughout the day. The app is easy to use, and while it may not have the graphics and audio features of the MLB app, it is easy to use, and displays all necessary information in a coherent manner.
It’s fascinating to watch how people follow baseball. A sport that prides itself on timelessness, in which hitting a home run today is just as meaningful and challenging as hitting a home run 100 yeas old, has become a sport rife with statistics and one that is perfect to follow on a digital platform. There is no substitute for attending a game in person or watching it on tv, but if ever one sport could be as realized through the virtual world as it is live, baseball might just be it.