NEW YORK -- It has been five years since the At Bat revolution. MLB.com's groundbreaking mobile app debuted on July 10, 2008, and it was quickly met with a groundswell of support that has made it one of the top 10 grossing iPhone applications in any category and the best in sports.
More than 21 million people have downloaded At Bat over the past five years, and more than 5,000 different types of mobile devices have had the application installed. At Bat has been the top grossing sports app for five years running and has changed the way people watch and follow baseball.
At Bat has made the baseball experience mobile, and it has allowed fans to customize their experiences. They can watch live out-of-market games with MLB.TV Premium or just scan the highlights, and At Bat allows fans to access pitch charts and to listen to radio feeds from around the country to scratch their baseball itch.
One of the original 500 apps to launch, At Bat has broken a lot of ground along the way. It was the first sports app available and the first to stream live games, and MLB became the first sports league to do passbook ticketing via an application. At Bat's engineers were the first to get access to the iPad, and Adam Ritter, senior vice president of wireless for MLB Advanced Media, said it's just the beginning.
"There's a lot more to come," said Ritter. "And I think the important thing is whenever there's a new feature or functionality that Apple makes available, we quickly say, 'How will this enhance the app and increase the experience of the fan?' And then we merge those two together."
At Bat has steadily increased in scope since its first incarnation, which featured a live league-wide scoreboard and video highlights. Data shows that more than 60 percent of subscribers use At Bat every day, and the application has been accessed more than 1.5 billion times since its introduction.
But this story is about more than sheer numbers; it's also about ingenuity. At Bat has evolved steadily to service the fan experience, adding items such as pitch-by-pitch tracking in 2008 and live radio broadcasts and streaming games in 2009. At Bat became available on the iPad in time for the 2010 season.
And then things really began to change. In 2010, At Bat could be used to access specific features at each ballpark, and mobile food offering was added at the close of the season. What will come next? Whatever a talented team of engineers, developers and project managers can imagine.
"Apple has a terrific developer community. They have the Worldwide Developer Conference every year in June," said Ritter. "We've had the opportunity to be up on stage going back as far as 2008 -- with Steve Jobs -- to show what an app could look like. We were there previewing what would become At Bat. We were back at the same conference a couple years later to show live video. This past year, Chad Evans, our project manager, and I were invited by Apple to talk at WWDC about the history of baseball and technology, specifically mobile and the iPhone. We get to showcase some of their technologies in a real meaningful way that baseball fans can take advantage of."
Fans have noticed, and their support has helped the experience grow with time. At Bat has been downloaded a record 7.1 million times this season, besting the previous record of 6.7 million downloads before the end of June. More than 500 million live video and audio streams have been delivered over the life of the product, and more than 1.8 billion minutes of live video have been watched.
Ritter said that one of the great things about At Bat is the way it transcends generations. His father uses it to track baseball games, and so does his 15-year-old nephew.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com.