At Angel Stadium: Peanuts, Cracker Jacks and Android tablets [Video]
Baseball, the great American pastime, is a sport of tradition.
For more than 100 years, people have sat in the sun on a summer's day to catch a ballgame.
And over the years, grabbing a cold beer and a ballpark hot dog; bringing your glove to the stadium in the hopes of catching a fly ball or home run; standing and singing during the seventh-inning stretch about peanuts and Cracker Jacks have all become part of the experience of watching a game in person.
Now, T-Mobile and the Los Angeles Angels are in the middle of an experiment to see if they can add tablet computers to the culture of watching a live game.
T-Mobile is renting two tablets, the 7-inch-screen Samsung Galaxy Tab and the 8.9-inch-screen T-Mobile G-Slate (made by LG), at Angel Stadium for a reasonable $10 per game.
So why plunk down an Alexander Hamilton to get a tablet at a game, when your hands might already be full with the normal ballpark fare?
T-Mobile is hoping its the apps, and added entertainment value for kids, that will make this rental a compelling move.
Either tablet, both of which run Google's Android mobile OS, come preloaded with apps that can make the game a bit more interesting.
Most notably, a game program is preloaded onto the tablets -- so you can check out the rosters of each team on the field and read between (or during if the game is boring) innings about what players and the organization have been up to.
ESPN and Major League Baseball apps allow renters to checkout scores on other games and even watch video from other games -- or the Angels' game taking place at the time if it's on ESPN. T-Mobile's T-Mobile TV app can stream live TV shows as well.
Videogames are loaded onto the tablets too -- Angry Birds, Need for Speed Shift and others -- to keep kids and game-loving adults happy during a commercial break or during pitching changes.
And, of course, the Internet is readily available to settle any trivia questions one might have with friends during a game.
The tablets run on T-Mobile's 3G and 4G networks, which are both speedy at Angel Stadium as T-Mobile installed cellular antennas in Angel Stadium itself during the off-season.
But despite all that, the tablet experience hasn't yet reached its full potential.
Alongside all the other traditions of baseball mentioned, there have seemingly been fans in the stands with radios, listening to the play-by-play as long as portable radios have existed.
Tablets would be an ideal gadget to stream the play-by-play of the game and replace the AM/FM sets for many, but neither tablet comes preloaded with this ability -- though an enterprising renter can hunt down the website for the radio feeds in a possible work-around. Regardless, headphones don't come with the rental -- that'd be a nice addition too.
And every game nowadays is available on TV (all too often cable TV) so streaming a game, would make sense to a tablet as well -- another feature that is absent if the game isn't on ESPN.
Of course, setting all that up would likely require new media contracts between radio and TV stations, the Angels and T-Mobile. But those additions, built-in and easy to use, could make tablets at a ballpark less of a novelty.
Another frustration is three radar-gun apps available in Google's Android Market -- none of which I could get working on the tablets. Maybe they weren't designed for big-league ballparks, but it would be really cool to track just how fast a pitcher is throwing with a rented tablet.
As of now, T-Mobile and the Angels are simply testing the tablet-at-the-stadium idea out. The effort launched at Angel Stadium last month and is set to continue through at least the end of the regular season. If baseball fans rent the tablets and it's a hit, T-Mobile says it's something that could spread to other stadiums in the future.
What do you think of the idea? Feel free to leave a comment.
Check out the video below to see the tablets at Angel Stadium in action.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A Los Angeles Angels game program on a Samsung Galaxy Tab at Angel Stadium. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times