Bullington: An American Tradition comes into the 21st Century

By: Bruce Bullington, GreensboroSports.com staffwriter

Back when I first started watching baseball back in the 1980’s, there were only three teams to watch – the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs. The Braves were available on WTBS for what seemed like every game. The Orioles were on Home Team Sports and a myriad of local channels, from WDCA out of Washington, WGGT in downtown Greensboro and WAAP out of Snow Camp. Of course, the Cubs were available daily on WGN.

When you couldn’t get your favorite team on television, you were forced to try and get them on the radio. I first learned that the Blue Jays had pulled out an extra inning miracle against the Orioles in the final weekend of the 1989 pennant race from WTOP in Washington.

While there is certainly a certain romanticism involved in searching all the static on the AM dial to find a far-flung game, I don’t advocate the notion that you will somehow “enjoy it more” than you would on XM satellite radio, as noted technophobe Andy Durham did on this very space earlier this week.

The landscape is indeed different. In 2007, there really is no reason that you can’t see your favorite team. It’s now simply a matter of ponying up the dough to acquire the technology.

Baseball this week came to terms with InDemand to keep MLB Extra Innings on cable rather than signing an exclusive deal with DirecTV (ala NFL Sunday ticket). This means that anyone with Time Warner Digital Cable can pay $160 (broken up over four months) for all out-of-market games. For the record, the Orioles, Braves, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds are considered in-market and are not available on Extra Innings.

For the fan on the go, mlb.com offers a tremendous service called mlb.tv. They offer all out-of-market games right on your computer and you can download MLB Mosaic and have up to six games on your screen at once. In addition, all regular season games since 2006 are archived and can be pulled up for viewing at anytime. The service costs $120 for the season or $20 a month from April through October.

For fans who just want to listen to games, that service costs $15 for the season (and is included in the mlb.tv package).

Atlanta Braves fans have three channels to check for the latest game. TBS is scheduled to air 70 games in their final year of Braves coverage (TBS has signed a national cable deal with MLB to begin running regular season games beginning next season). 55 games will air on SportsSouth, 25 games are schedule to be seen on Fox Sports Net South with the remaining 12 games slated to air on either Fox or ESPN.

Local Orioles fans are in for the biggest change. It’s a good news/bad news scenario, with the good news being that all 162 games are locally available for the first time ever. The bad news is that they are only available for customers of DirecTV.

The Orioles are now showing all their games on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). It’s only available locally on DirecTV channel 626, with games occasionally airing on channel 671 (MASN2). They share the two channels with the Washington Nationals so, if for some reason, you are a big fan of theirs you can see 161 Nats games on MASN as well (the July 21st game against the Colorado Rockies is scheduled to air on Fox).

When you’re not around a television and taking the computer on the road with you isn’t an option, there is the miracle that is XM satellite radio. Every team, every game. It’s that simple. XM is simply a must-have for a baseball fan. No need fumbling around to get the signal from a station hundreds of miles away. With the clarity of XM, you’ll hear the game better than people listening on their local station. This is truly a great time to be a baseball fan. No calling a score phone for the latest updates. No driving around trying to get a weak AM signal. It’s time for baseball fans to light a candle and to ignore the technophobes over in the corner with the transistor radio cursing the darkness.