Sunday's edition of The Rundown will guide fans through digital offerings
By Mark Newman
On the same day Major League Baseball rolls out the regular season with three games, MLB Network will air a special Opening Day Product version of The Rundown show at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, as a helpful guide through the many fun ways fans can access and engage with the game all year through MLB's digital offerings.
The show will be hosted by Scott Braun and Kelly Nash, featuring appearances by Jason Kipnis, Corey Seager, Kevin Pillar, Al Leiter, Eric Byrnes, Harold Reynolds, Ron Darling, Kevin Millar and more. This examines the many screens in our lives -- from the best first screen we'll ever know (the field itself) to our phones and tablets to the next-gen VR and recognition technologies.
"We are all excited to finally see baseball again," Nash said, "and with new products around the game, we can all enjoy baseball in many different ways, and in many different places."
There are three major categories for consuming the game today, and all of them are covered: following the games, going to the games and playing the games. Products featured include MLB.TV Premium, MLB.com At Bat, MLB.com Ballpark, Beat the Streak, R.B.I. Baseball 2017, Home Run Derby mobile and Home Run Derby VR on Google Daydream. Here are the highlights:
Following the games
The world's longest-running and most successful live streaming sports product is back for its 15th-anniversary year on 400 supported connected and mobile devices, and signups are under way for $112.99 yearly or $24.99 monthly.
"I would love to be on the couch watching the games like everyone else, eating some popcorn, but I'm a baseball gypsy," said Darling, the Mets' legend and current broadcast analyst. "I'm either on a plane or in the hotel room or even in my office at the MLB Network. What MLB.TV allows me to do is watch games, and watch them in a way that I can really analyze the games. When I'm watching Noah Syndergaard face Bryce Harper, I can see what pitches Syndergaard throws, what pitches Harper can take, if Syndergaard is dominating Harper, or if it's the other way around. So it really doesn't matter if you're a casual baseball fan, or someone like me who has to grind it out all the time, MLB.TV is for both of us."
MLB.com At Bat
The all-time leading sports app is available for iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets, and Amazon Fire. Fans downloaded At Bat a record-setting 14.2 million times in 2016, and developments for '17 include a new way to personalize your iPhone and iPad through customized club launcher icons, allowing you to put your favorite team's logo on top of your homescreen. The show features outtakes from a Kipnis commercial for At Bat, and Reynolds watching on the go.
Going to the games
The official MLB ballpark application perfectly complements and personalizes your trip with mobile check-in, social media, offers, rewards and exclusive content. Select MLB ballparks also offer mobile food and merchandise ordering and seat and experience upgrade components. Check in automatically with iBeacon technology at select ballparks for exclusive offers and in-game features. Save pics and videos, and keep track of how teams play when you attend.
"It can not only help you get to a ballgame," Braun said, "but can also help make the experience more personable and entertaining."
Playing the games
R.B.I. Baseball 2017
This game just hit stores on Xbox One, PS4 and iOS, and it returns with fast-paced, high-octane, pick-up-and-play baseball action. Take control of your game with reactive pitching and batting for in-the-moment decisions. R.B.I. Baseball 2017 is packed with 30 authentic ballparks, advanced stat tracking, season game sims and roster updates throughout the year.
"That was really cool for me," Seager of his announcement as the game's U.S. cover player. "Growing up playing sports, video games and seeing all the people on the covers and idolizing them was awesome for me. It's surreal for me, I smile every time I see it."
Leiter and Byrnes play R.B.I. Baseball 2017 at MLB Network, and by watching, you'll get a hint at which teams those former players expect to win this year's World Series.
Beat the Streak
The popular free fantasy baseball game is back, online or on your phone with the app. Choose one or two players every day, and if that player gets a hit, then your streak lives on. If you reach 57 straight games with a hit, "topping" Joe DiMaggio's unbreakable record, you will be rewarded the grand prize of $5.6 million. No one in the 16 years of Beat the Streak has won the big payoff, but last season a fan tied the all-time streak of 49 games.
"It sounds easy, and someone's gotten close," said Peter Banks, director of marketing, games and VR at MLB Advanced Media. "Five-point-six million bucks is on the line. But you know, the Cubs won the Series last year, so stranger things have happened."
Home Run Derby
You can play this free game right now, choosing a slugger like Giancarlo Stanton, who won the T-Mobile Home Run Derby last summer in San Diego, or your own guy.
"Home Run Derby mobile is super fun," Banks said. "Pick up and play baseball, you're crushing homers with your favorite sluggers, you're at the Home Run Derby. We've got seven new parks this year, a bunch of new players, a bunch of new bats. It's everything you love about baseball, in a bite-sized, mobile portion."
At All-Star Week this summer in Miami, you'll be able to knock baseballs out of ballparks in an enhanced VR version of the game. The special Network show includes a segment breaking down the new Home Run Derby VR on Google Daydream, including breathtaking hand detection technology. MLBAM is building beyond technology's boundaries to deliver you revolutionary baseball video game experiences. If you go to All-Star Week, visit the MLB.com gaming area at Fanfest to try it.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.