They are ready.
Welcome to the start of another Major League Baseball season.
We've been waiting a long time to say that, and every year that we grow closer to this game the wait seems interminably longer. Opening Day is when the wait was so worth it. It also is when you get familiar with all of the latest technology from MLB.com, and there have been more enhancements and breakthrough developments trucked in for this regular season than we can ever remember here at Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Here is a look at what's on our menu, so explore, get ready, and let's all watch some baseball and demolish some more records:
Watch as much MLB.TV as humanly possible
You won't be alone. The remarkable story of MLB.TV continues in 2008 with more reasons than ever to take part, and once again the best reasons of all are those 750 guys who make memories for us, who sign autographs for us, who throw the nastiest heat and smash baseballs into oblivion. Here is another reason: the exclusive MLB.TV NexDef plugin. It is a new benefit of MLB.TV Premium, giving you stunning, 1.2MB TV-picture quality as you watch live baseball over your computer. All 2,430 out-of-market games in this regular season will be available on both MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium. Look for the Silverlight Enhanced Video Player for both products, and once again a subscription to either level will come with MLB.com Gameday Audio (also sold separately at $14.95 per year) so you can listen to any live game and choose the home or away broadcasters.
Subscribe to MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium right now, and you could win a 26-inch Sharp AQUOS TV. Make that 751 best reasons.
Best new prospect: Video Alerts
This is one of the coolest additions to the tech baseball life. An enhancement to MLB.com Mobile Team Alerts, the new Video Alerts will be available starting Opening Day on select Verizon, AT&T and Sprint handsets including smart phones. Go beyond text messaging by actually seeing that grand slam or diving catch.
Clips will be cut and sent about three minutes after the play occurs -- the ultimate bang-bang play for the modern fan. Look for up to five video alerts per game, chosen by MLB.com editors so you'll get the really good stuff. For $3.99, fans get text and video alerts if they have a phone capable of streaming video. The iPhone will be supported, as will more new devices to follow.
Just sign up by texting "GET Club name" to 65246. For example, if you are a Mets fan, you send the text "get mets" to 65246. Once you sign up for the text alerts, MLB.com will send eligible fans a second text message offering the Video Alerts service. The price hasn't changed, so this is the throw-in of all-time. As always, you can manage your Team Alert selections in the "m-dash" (Mobile Dashboard).
Gameday is one of your true loves if you are like many baseball fans. Every year this decade it has grown more addictive by incorporating more technology. MLB.com upgraded the Flash engine that runs Gameday to provide much faster and smoother performance than ever before, so please upgrade to Flash 9.0.115 if you have not already done so. This year, it takes another big step forward by integrating Gameday with in-depth Game Previews, in-game Real Time Highlights and the MLB.com Daily Rewind Game Recaps and other game-specific video from right inside the app. Get Pitch-f/x technology to provide pitch speed, trajectory and location data from every Major League park. And check this out: MLB.com will be the first provider ever to offer real-time pitch identification (fastball, curveball . . . even knuckleballs) for every pitch.
Win a million dollars
The word is out. Someone could win $1 million by playing MLB.com Beat the Streak, and people are signing up like the second coming of Joe DiMaggio. After all, his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is the record they have to "beat" in order to win the mil. Look how easy fantasy baseball can be for today's busy fan with the MLB.com 2008 Open. Smaller rosters, $10,000 to the winner -- and entry into the World Series of Fantasy Baseball coming in October if you're lucky. There is a whole lot more here, and after you've entered, be sure to get the edge with never-ending fantasy analysis and tools.
The only media company with 30 traveling beat writers is about to bring you more headlines than ever for your favorite team. Just thank your friendly neighborhood MLB.com correspondent, whose byline and style you know by heart.
Baseball fans are very much on an early pace to set a fifth straight overall Major League Baseball season attendance record, and most of you get to that ballpark seat by ordering your tickets online. Single-game tickets are on sale now for every team, or choose from a variety of ticket plans and offers. If you choose to print your tickets at home, you'll have your tickets immediately. Use My Team Account Manager to make season ticket payments, forward tickets via e-mail, re-sell extra season tickets or review your contact info. MLBAM's recent deal with StubHub.com makes it easier for you to find those nearly impossible-to-get tickets in this age.
Get accustomed to the new BaseballChannel.TV programming for the 2008 season, including live weekday shows. It starts with MLB.com Leading Off at 9 a.m., featuring hosts John Marzano and Vinny Micucci. They take a look at the latest news, hottest rumors and upcoming matchups around the league. The Fantasy 411 show airs this Monday at 11 a.m., then look for it every weekday from 2-3 p.m. ET. Host Casey Stern will mediate and keep a safe distance between our friends Mike Siano and Cory Schwartz, who actually really do know a lot about fantasy baseball.
And now for something completely different and vanguard: MLB.com Whiparound. This daily show will feature live, on-the-scene pregame reports from MLB.com reporters from on location. Yes, those same reporters who are going to be bringing you more headlines than ever in 2008 are also going to be on camera now, so think of it as your pregame meal. We check in with every team daily, with coverage anchored from our studios in New York. It will routinely air from 6-7 p.m. ET each weekday this season, but for this Monday and Thursday, Whiparound will be on at high noon.
This is now more modular, serving as the "Daily Rewind Game Recap" for each game as a standalone clip. This is the first year that game highlight reels (recaps) are free, so enjoy all the action. At the end of the night, all of these will be aggregated and played as a show on BaseballChannel.TV overnight. So they exist both individually and aggregated -- a snack and a meal for those looking for a choice. Expect a revolving cast of anchors.
Newsbreaks and Video Search
While we're on the subject of BaseballChannel.TV ("the Channel" here in MLB.com parlance), look for the addition of live newsbreaks from the Anchor Desk at the top of every hour, starting at 11a.m. ET each day and going through the end of the baseball action every night. These will be available on the site, on-demand, refreshed hourly. Video Search should be a lot more far-reaching and accurate, especially as the season progresses and there is more material in the system.
Want one of those new Straight Back Raglan Graphic T-shirts from Nike? How about a cool Low 5 59FIFTY Fitted Cap from New Era? Or maybe you just need a Grady Sizemore or Johan Santana customized jersey? Get ready for your first ballpark outings by going straight to the source, at your own convenience. Shop forever.
Before you do anything at MLB.com this season, be sure you are registered. It's free and easy, and it is the gateway to many things that happen during the course of the year -- from ticketing and Shop offers to contest prizes to All-Star voting to blogging and posting messages to subscription signups and more.
Scoreboard, Standings, Stats, Schedule
Those four words are at the top of the homepage and they still hold most of the answers and meaning in life. You'll live here. The new game-wrap page will be another major advancement, chock-full of daily musts.
Blogs and Boards
Major changes are in store at MLBlogs.com, so watch closely and be sure to blog about baseball there. It's an "Official MLB.com Affiliate with Unofficial Opinions" and just grew a larger presence on the homepage of MLB.com (a different fan blog is promoted there each day) and every team's homepage. Join bloggers like A's Opening Day starter Joe Blanton or Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch or a regular Mets fan like chick-lit author Zöe Rice. Take a look at the redesigned Fan Forum Message Boards, and make sure you have a profile and join a thread such as that one by the aforementioned phillies6phan26, who kicked off a predictions discussion and expects that:
The Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Indians (Wild Card) will represent the American League in the postseason, and the Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers and Rockies (Wild Card) will get there from the National League. That fan's overall pick is (surprise!) Phillies over Tigers, and it says there that Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Chase Utley of the Phillies will be the MVPs. Jump right in there and state your own case.
At any given moment, you might be able to bid on dazzling items such as four Opening Day infield box tickets at Busch Stadium or a Jonathan Papelbon signed home jersey with World Series patch on the sleeve. Be a regular bidder this season.
It is time for another regular season, a tradition greeted with pageantry, memories of seasons past and glimpses of what could be possible as spring brings summer and fall. Get ready, get used to the new MLB.com, and listen closely for the first shouts of "Play Ball." You waited long enough for it to return. Now dig in.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.