When Major League Baseball gets underway next week, don’t limit your enjoyment to watching the game in person or on your living-room big screen. These days, apps running on a second screen—a smartphone or tablet—are becoming as integral to watching the game as cold beer and peanuts.
A second screen enhances your experience in ways that just aren’t possible any other way, delivering everything from analysis, player stats, and interactive features to tools for communicating with other fans watching the game.
We’ve rounded up seven of the best second-screen apps that belong on your smartphone or tablet this baseball season. Download and install one or more before Opening Day on Sunday to make sure you’re game ready when the ump yells “play ball!”
MLB At Bat
As second screen apps go, Major League Baseball’s eight-year-old At Bat is still the ace of the rotation. Even the free “lite” version has enough features to make any seamhead giddy, including breaking news, player stats, scores, standings, schedules, interactive rosters, and the ability to customize your homepage as a hub for your favorite team. You can also receive push notifications to alert you to game starts, lead and score changes, and in-game video highlights.
Still it’s worth ponying up for the premium features ($3 a month/$20 a year, free for MLB.TV subscribers). You’ll get access to a treasure trove of complete classic games in the video library, real-time box scores with pitch-by-pitch tracking, and each team’s live local radio broadcast for every game from spring training through the World Series. The last is particularly useful when you want to mute national network blowhards and tune in to your hometown broadcast team.
The iOS version of the app received several updates this season, including a new UI for all 30 team pages, player search expanded to include all active and historical players (both iPhone only), and Spanish language support. (Android, iOS, Kindle Fire)
MiLB First Pitch
If you like keeping tabs on baseball’s prospects, download MiLB First Pitch. A companion to MLB At Bat, it provides similar coverage of 150 minor league clubs with scores, stats, news, video highlights and push notification game alerts.
As with the big–league app, the basis are free but you must buy into video streams of games—both live an on-demand—and other premium offerings, but it’s the best way to scout tomorrow’s stars while following their parent clubs on TV. Platoon it with At Bat for complete coverage of your favorite team’s entire organization. (Android, iOS)
If you prefer your baseball coverage from a third-party source, it’s tough to beat ESPN’s free flagship app (formerly Scorecenter). In addition to scores and standings, it will keep you supplied with a steady stream of injury reports, contract signings, and other breaking news from around the league. Swipe over to the ESPN Now tab for social media content from ESPN writers, teams, players, and other baseball insiders.
Designate your favorite team and you can receive alerts before games and get the latest news and videos about your club sent directly to your ESPN inbox. Best of all, you can use the app as a second screen for other sports after the Fall Classic. (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)
Beyond the Box
Twitter has transformed the way we watch TV, particularly sports, helping us connect in real-time around our favorite teams and most hated rivals. A skillfully curated Twitter feed can make you feel like you’re watching the game with your buddies at the neighborhood bar—but sifting through the dross to assemble one can be frustrating and time consuming.
Enter Beyond the Box. This one-dollar app provides a prefab timeline around your favorite sport. Powered by Twitter and Instagram, Beyond the Box pulls from thousands of sources—local and national media, fan blogs, team sites and the players themselves—to surround you with more baseball chatter than a little league ball field. In addition to the general feed for MLB (as well as the NFL, NBA, NHL, and more), you can create a custom news feed around your favorite team that will make their beat writers jealous.
A typical Beyond the Box feed will give you an aggregated stream of tweets, article links, images and videos. A Sunday afternoon snapshot of the MLB feed, for example featured commentary from writers Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark, an article from Baseball America, and a selfie of Toronto Blue Jays Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista driving to spring training in full uniform. All that’s missing is the Cracker Jack. (iOS)
Scoring a game by hand is a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of baseball; but in our digital age, this pen-and-paper activity could easily go the way of flannel uniforms and Pullman cars.
Thankfully, there’s iScore Baseball. This app turns your iPad into a digital scorebook, but you don’t have to know any of the arcana of scorekeeping to use it. iScore employs interview prompts to help you track the on-field action. Say the batter grounds out to first base: To record that play, tap the Out button and iScore will ask what kind of out was made. Select Ground Out and the app will ask you to tap on the diamond where the ball was hit and the position that made the out. As you record each play in this manner, iScore translates it all into scorebook speak. After the game, you can generate or email a completed scoresheet, box score, or team stats.
And if the idea of scoring a game for posterity seems quaint now that the web can serve up play-by-play stats for just about any matchup in history, consider that its greater purpose may be keeping you focused on the game amid the distractions of home. (iOS, Android; $10)
With frequent pitching changes, manager challenges, and between-inning interviews slowing the pace of the game, it can be tough for the most hardcore fan to stay engaged. MLB PrePlay can help keep you focused on the action by adding a game within the game.
Rather than numb you with an avalanche of statistics, this free
app tests your baseball IQ and predictive powers by having you guess the outcomes of the game while you watch. Before the first pitch is thrown, you make your picks for the winning team and the pitchers’ lines. Once the game starts, you make in-game predictions for each batter, such as will he get a hit, a walk, or an out. Extra points are earned by correctly predicting details about the types of hit or out.
There are additional between-inning challenges, such as predicting a 1-2-3 inning or the number of pitches thrown. A chat feature lets you trash talk with other fans watching the same game, and when the on-field contest is over PrePlay ranks your score against all that game’s other participants. PrePlay also offers a 1-on-1 challenge that pits you against a single opponent for one inning in a battle for bragging rights. (Android, iOS)
If you’re a fantasy baseball owner, you’ve got an additional stake in the season. This free app is your own personal scout, keeping you apprised of what all your fantasy players are doing while you’re tuned into the real games. You can track individual players or whole teams in real time, with enough stats to make a sabermetrician swoon.