Fox Sports Arizona Game Connect

I received an invitation from Fox Sports Arizona to be their guest in their suite at the Arizona Diamondbacks game last night against the Colorado Rockies. Normally I am not a suite kind of guy, I somehow feel disconnected from the game and like the comfort of Section 132 Row 9. Before I could decline their generous offer I was told it wasn’t just hanging out watching a baseball game.

Fox Sports Arizona has developed a new feature on their web site called GameConnect and they were looking for a few people who could test it out and provide them feedback. Baseball, computers, Internet, and free food are like the perfect combination for a geek like myself. I immediately accepted eager to see this new web experience.

At first glance GameConnect looks like a combination of Twitter, MLB GameDay, and a stats package all rolled into one. At the top of the screen is the current game score followed by team MLB rankings for batting average, pitching ERA, and fielding percentage along with starting pitchers.

During the game that is replaced with the pitcher on the mound along with the batter at the plate and who is on deck. The player statistics are displayed along with a link to a brief player biography and a button that says “Social Buzz”. The “Social Buzz” button will show you the latest Twitter message about that player.

Social media has become an important part of game day. Throughout the game fans, team officials, and media members continue to update the Twitter-verse with information from the ballpark. The Arizona Diamondbacks are especially active showing fan tweets on dbTV before the game and between innings.

GameConnect takes that one step further with a section called Game Talk, which is a running conversation of what is being said about the teams playing which in this case were the Diamondbacks and Rockies. There is a way for you to post message on Twitter from GameConnect eliminating the need of switching applications during the game. GameConnect does include the hashtag #FSAZGameConnect along with a link to the GameConnect page so your Tweet length is reduced from 140 characters to 101.

On the left side of the screen is the current match-up of batter and pitcher. The system will evaluate the batter’s past success against the pitcher and determine which has the advantage with a small gold crown and “winner” listed. In cases where a batter has not faced a pitcher no advantage is identified. At first I didn’t think much of the crown/winner designation and discounted it. Showing the information to my wife, she immediately connected with that and was more interested in each at bat to determine whether the system was accurate in who had the advantage.

GameConnect has an interesting way of showing pitch count. In a graphic similar to a gas gauge the system will countdown from full to empty with each pitch. The maximum or full mark is identified as the average number of pitches a pitcher throws for the season. Pitchers who typically go deep into a game or have high pitch counts per game will start with a larger number than someone who averages only a few innings per start.

The GameConnect site is fairly responsive. There seemed to be only a few seconds of delay from what was happening at the ballpark to what was being shown on the web site. The updates were smooth and went without incident for most of the game.

I was using an Apple iPad 3 to try out GameConnect and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. It was fairly lightweight and did not consume battery life hardly at all, which is not always the case with some of these kinds of applications. I went through an entire 9 inning game consuming less than 20 percent of my battery.

The site formatted well for the iPad making it the perfect companion to take to a game. I tried the site on my iPhone but the amount of data being displayed was too much for such a small screen. GameConnect does not have a mobile equivalent so for now your best bet is a tablet or laptop to make full use of the content.

The one problem I had was with the social media portion. Whenever I would post a Twitter message from within GameConnect it would show up on the social media feed twice. If I refreshed the screen it would only show one entry. Kind of a nit but it was consistent with the iPad throughout the game.

For the amount of data being displayed, the interface of the system was rather clean. The navigation was easy and I especially liked the ability change the match-ups to see what would happen if the pitcher or hitter changed. The system is perfect for fans who like to play what-if games or delve into the statistics of baseball.

I’ll definitely be bookmarking this site and pulling it up during the game to see what the social buzz is about at the game or check on statistical match-ups of pitchers and hitters. Overall I came away impressed. The Diamondbacks must have been impressed too, they filled the system with hits, runs, and slick fielding plays in route to a 10-0 win making Arizona 1-0 in games where new technology is introduced when I am sitting in a suite at Chase Field so we got that going for us too.

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