Pitchers and catchers report.
When I see or hear those four words, I know the end of winter is near and baseball is gearing up to return. Pitchers and catchers reported to their respective spring training camps a few weeks ago, with position players arriving in Arizona or Florida a few days later. Now, spring training games have begun, and baseball's regular season will get underway later this month on March 29.
Here are nine apps to get you ready for the baseball season and follow your favorite club throughout the summer.
MLB At Bat
Major League Baseball's own app should be your first stop. The free version of MLB At Bat provides news, videos, box scores and recaps of all the games, and you can select your favorite team for quick access to, say, daily updates and live scores of the Cincinnati Reds. There are MLB beat reporters covering each team, so you get in-depth coverage of your favorite team that's on par with what you get from your local paper. Subscribers ($2.99 a month or $19.99 a year) can tune into live, local TV or radio broadcasts. I do both all summer long, and the streaming quality of the live video has greatly improved over the years.
With MLB's own Ballpark app, you can purchase tickets to games and then while you're taking in a game, you can use the app to view stadium maps and concession menus to make efficient beer runs to miss the fewest number of pitches. The app lets you keep a photo journal of games you attended and offers in-game highlights.
SeatGeek and StubHub
It's always best to shop around for tickets, and the two apps I use the most are SeatGeek and StubHub. Both apps let you easily hunt for the best seats or the best prices, but I find SeatGeek's color-coded Deal Score to be particularly useful when searching for good seats at fair prices.
ESPN and WatchESPN
ESPN's baseball coverage is excellent. The ESPN app provides strong national coverage from some of my favorite baseball scribes, including Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian. Its local baseball news, however, is less compelling because it is usually nothing more than AP stories (MLB's At Bat app is the way to follow beat reporters of your favorite team). And if you don't want to pony up for an At Bat subscription to watch games live, then the WatchESPN app is a good fallback position (provided you are a pay TV subscriber). With it, you can watch ESPN's baseball broadcasts live, along with ESPN's baseball studio shows, Baseball Tonight and Intentional Talk.
MiLB First Pitch
If you are a fan of minor league baseball, then you can listen to games for free with the MiLB First Pitch app, but not all minor league teams stream all of their games. In addition to live radio streams, you can also follow the news, scores and standings of your favorite minor league team (or the minor league affiliates of your favorite Major League team).
The CBS Sports app provides live scores. I like it because a) it lets me set the Cincinnati Reds as one of My Teams for quick access and b) the app's news feed for the Reds pulls in articles from my favorite Reds site, Red Reporter on SB Nation, along with news stories from RotoWire. It also provides a great feed of Reds-related tweets. (For the record, CNET is a division of CBS.)
I played the original R.B.I Baseball back on my Nintendo system back in day. This was back when Pete Rose was still managing (and allegedly betting on) the Reds. It remains the best baseball video game for my money. For a sport with a pace some complain is on the slow side, R.B.I. Baseball keeps the action moving by keeping things simple. The game made its debut as a mobile app four years ago, and the 2018 version of the game is due out on or around Opening Day. Because it's developed and published by Major League Baseball's Advanced Media group, it features real Major League players playing inside real Major League stadiums. And in my experience, R.B.I. Baseball and an iPad ($313.99 at Best Buy) is a highly effective combo for creating a baseball fan out of your son or daughter. It will teach them the teams and players in the league and the rules of the game.