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For baseball junkies who absolutely need to be on top of the latest scores, standings and stats at all times, the iPhone is a godsend. Second only to ESPN MVP, the iPhone puts every ball and strike into the palm of your hand, thanks to a very decent mobile MLB site that provides a speedy blow-by-blow rundown of every pitch.
But the stakes have been raised with MLB.com At Bat. Through a simple, sleek interface, MLB boils down its stat-intensive WAP site to a quick-reference scoreboard that provides an up-to-the minute rundown of base-runners, pitch count, hits, errors and runs for every game across the league. What’s lost in the box score, however, is gained through in-game video updates, 30- to 60-second clips uploaded from MLB.com within moments of the live highlight.
Video quality is stellar --- if you’re fortunate enough to have an iPhone 3G or be within range of a Wi-Fi hookup; At Bat automatically detects your network and quickly delivers the best-possible picture, so EDGE users get grainy, blurry, but still very watchable clips. Much like the early days of the YouTube app, load times vary and videos often get hung up (even when using Wi-Fi), but we have to assume MLB.com will quickly boost their servers to handle the new load.
With a low introductory rate, it’s certainly a must-have app for any die-hard baseball fan, but casual watchers should proceed with caution. The $4.99 price tag covers “the remainder of the 2008 season --- including playoffs and World Series,” which presumably means next season will command at least $9.99. And unless At Bat can provide a Gameday experience without needing to launch the free WAP site (available as a game-specific link within each matchup), At Bat's charms are going to wear off long before Opening Day 2009.
That being said, it’s a great start and offers a fantastic peak at what iPhone developers can deliver. We've already gotten our money's worth, and can only hope commissioners David Stern and Roger Goodell are paying attention.You won't see the best results unless you're hooked up to Wi-Fi or 3G, but MLB.com At Bat is an indispensable app for baseball fanatics.