New app Inside the Park aims to enhance game experienceWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Social media and smartphone use has grown in popularity to the point where it seems a majority of users are on their phones all the time, whether they are watching the Oscars, the Super Bowl — or a Mud Hens baseball game.
That “second-screen mentality” is why Nathan Steinmetz, manager of online marketing for the Toledo Mud Hens, said he is excited for a new Minor League Baseball (MiLB) app set to debut by Opening Day.
The free app, Inside the Park, was developed by Boomaphone, a subsidiary of sports marketing company Brandiose, in partnership with MiLB and will include all 160 minor league teams, including the Mud Hens.
“You walk around our games the past few years and you’ll see that everyone’s on their phone, whether they are checking their Twitter or texting their friends or posting their own photos on Instagram.
“It’s happening everywhere,” Steinmetz said.
“At any of these big events that everybody watches, that second-screen mentality is you’ve got your phone out and you’re following along on Twitter to see what everybody else is saying or you’re getting engaged and putting your own thoughts and jokes out there.
“It’s happening at home and it’s happening at our games. This app is a perfect culmination of all those things and we think it’s going to be really great.”
Each team will supply its own inning-by-inning content for the app, which will be available for both iPhone and Android users.
“We’re confident it will be up and operational on Opening Day or soon thereafter,” Steinmetz said. “Realistically, it will probably take us a homestand or two to work through the kinks. But it should be really cool.”
The app is expected to serve as a “companion piece” to the fan experience, Steinmetz said.
“It lets fans know what special events might be happening before the game, what promotions will be happening during the game and what’s happening after the game, if there’s fireworks or any special events worth sticking around for,” Steinmetz said.
App users can vote on mascot races, sign up for promotions, earn points and reward coupons, interact through social media accounts, explore the ballpark via an interactive map and more, said app developer Jason Klein of Boomaphone.
The app will use geolocation to recognize what ballpark the user is in and pull up that feed, Steinmetz said. The user can also manually switch to a different ballpark, Klein said.
“This is connecting the ballpark experience in a way that’s never been done before,” Klein said. “It completely enhances the fan experience.”
All the Mud Hens social media platforms will be integrated into the app, so fans following the game will get Facebook posts, tweets and Instagram posts from the Mud Hens within the app.
Fans can also sign into their own social media platforms using the app. Photos, tweets and statuses shared via the app will automatically get a game hashtag that will be searchable and viewable by the Mud Hens and other fans at the game as well as your own friends, Steinmetz said.
“The idea is that if people are here, they can just have this app up the entire time and do everything they would want to do from the app,” Steinmetz said.
Steinmetz hopes the app will help fans take control of their game experience.
“There are events happening all over the concourse and if you walk in the wrong gate, you might not walk by it,” Steinmetz said. “People might not know the mascots sign autographs in the seventh inning because they sit over there and have no reason to come over here for example. So we’re hoping this really helps people increase the value of their ticket and be able to experience more.”
Last year, seven minor league teams participated in a pilot program with the app, including the Buffalo Bisons and Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the International League.
“One of the teams came to us so we built a minor league baseball app from the ground up,” Klein said. “We’re not bringing this over from any other sport or business. It was designed specifically for minor league baseball fans. We took a lot of notes and a lot of feedback from the teams last year and the app will be way better than last year.”
Many minor league fans are more interested in promotional events than baseball stats, Steinmetz said.
“Sports information is important, but our philosophy has always been that’s only part of it,” he said. “Some people just want to know, ‘Is SpongeBob going to be at the game today? Are there fireworks tonight?’ That’s what this app is. Twenty percent of the screen is taken up with information on the game and the rest is information about what’s going on and that’s what most people are here for.”
Steinmetz said he’s excited to use the app both at his job and as a fan.
“They get what we’re all about — the differences between our fans and fans of other sports and even of the major leagues,” Steinmetz said of Boomaphone. “They get how it’s all about fun and entertainment here and that’s all built into the app.”
Social media users comprise all age groups, from children to seniors, Steinmetz said.
“It’s getting to the point where just about everyone’s using it,” he said. “A good example is the Throwback Thursday hashtag. We’ve been taking advantage of our storied history and sharing some of our old photos from our archives.”
Each week, the Hens get responses from fans who attended games at Swayne Field and Ned Skeldon Stadium.
“The conversations that come out of that are amazing. We get incredible engagement from it,” Steinmetz said. “Right there is a great example of how social media has reached across all age groups and our messaging has changed a little bit to reflect that.
“[The app will be] that second-screen mentality coming right into our ballpark. That’s where we’re at now,” Steinmetz said. “It all kind of comes together, that you can communicate with other people, you can communicate with the team, you can get news and information — all from your seat. It’s pretty cool.”
Tags: app developer Jason Klein of Boomaphone, Boomaphone, Brandiose, Buffalo Bisons, Inside the Park, Instagram, International League, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, milb, minor league baseball, Minor League Baseball app, Mud Hens baseball game, Nathan Steinmetz, Nathan Steinmetz is manager of online marketing for the Mud Hens, Ned Skeldon Stadium, Opening Day, Swayne Field