Baseball season starts tonight for the San Diego Padres. The team is different. No Hoffman. No Greene. Might not be much of a team this year (time will tell). But still there is something about opening day which is very excitingâeven from 8,000 miles away.
Following baseball gets easier every year. I can remember when I worked a night shift at the Super 8 Motel in Missouri listening to the Padres play the Cardinals on the radio. The only reason the Pads were on at all was because they were playing St. Louisâwhich was about 3 hours away. I had to content myself with ESPN highlights for most games. A few years later, MLB.com started broadcasting the audio feeds on the internet and I listened to the 1998 Padres win the pennant over a 56k modem in the middle of the night for my first year in England. Soon, with broadband came video. I can now watch every game of the yearâjust as if I was living in SDâbut who has the time?
As I write this, Iâm playing with the MLB app for the iPhone on the train. It was introduced last year, but this year it adds Gameday audio so I can listen to the phone just as if I was listening to a radio broadcast in the States. It works well on 3G (well except for when I leave 3G areas on the train) so Iâm listening sporadically to the home opener of the Indians at Rangers. Padres Opening day doesnât start until 1am. Iâm debating whether I want to set the alarm so I can watch it live.
When I first moved to England, watching baseball was one of the things I missed the most. It was ubiquitous in the States, but you donât realise it until you leave (like bubble gum). Over there, you can turn on the TV and there is likely a game on somewhere.
There are some baseball broadcasts in England. Channel 5 shows the ESPN feed on Sunday and Wednesday nights in the wee hours of the morning. Since it is ESPN and only twice a week, you only get the big teamsârarely the Padres. This used to be how I watched baseball before broadband. It wasnât the same. Because it was on in the middle of the night, you didnât get the obligatory beer commercialsâyou get lonely men chat phone services (breathy voice: âAre you lonely? Would you like to meet young, fun, people? . . . â) which kind of takes the shine off the national past-time.
MLB.com has a great service which costs about $100 a season and you can watch any game over streaming media and all the games are archived for later viewing. Since most SD games are on in the middle of the night or early morning, I could wait for the archive to become available at watch it at a more convenient time, but it is not the same as watching live. One season, I was convinced that the team did better when I wore a certain cap while watching. If it was taped, I had no control over the game.
This morning I went to get coffee with friend at work. He was telling about how great the Manchester United match was yesterday. Apparently, it was very exciting in the last few minutes. He asked if I saw it. I told him I missed. The truth is I didnât even know it was on. This is a testament to my lack of assimilation, I guess. Iâve triedâI really have. I plan to take the kids to see Reading United play a match this yearâhopefully to foster an appreciation for football like my parents gave me an appreciation for baseball.
UPDATED (a few hours later):
I’m up at 1am to watch the MLB.com feed I raved about earlier. What a huge disappointment. They launched a new Flash player which promised the moon but couldn’t deliver. It’s supposed to have DVR-like ability and allow picture in picture, etc. The high-def picture keeps freezing and then becomes completely unavailable. Teething problems, probably. The forum is full of them. But this is opening day.
Also, MLB.com thinks the ball game started at 1:05am (UK time), but that is actually in the fourth inning. First 3 innings appear to be unavailable.
A very disappointing outing for the MLB video player.