ATLANTA (AP) — Baseball is back, which means die-hard fans like me are hungry for updates and highlights when we're not near our televisions or computers.
For the past six years, I've satisfied my appetite with Major League Baseball's evolving offerings. What used to be a glitch-filled, clunky desktop-based system is now a robust experience that includes sleek, high-performing apps for iPhones, iPads, Android and other devices.
This year's version of the software, MLB At Bat 2012, is the best yet. I've been using it on my iPhone throughout the budding baseball season, and I've found it to be smooth, easy to use and virtually indispensable when I'm on the go.
Downloading the app on Apple's iPhone or iPad won't cost you anything, but be forewarned: The free version won't get you very far. It doesn't offer much more than a scoreboard and limited news about baseball.
You'll be tempted to spend $14.99 to unlock the expanded features this year, or if you prefer you can pay $2.99 a month. It's less than the cost of good seats at a game, and you won't be sorry you did.
For that fee, you get access to the app's full offerings on both your iPhone and iPad. The app is also available on Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices, though it's a separate fee for each system. Unlike the app for Apple devices, though, there's no free version or monthly payment option.
Access to the mobile apps is also available through MLB.TV's premium package, which costs $124.99 and lets fans watch live games on their mobile devices, desktops and Internet-connected TVs for that one price.
The price of admission gets you a flurry of features.
You get all the staples you'd expect, including box scores, video highlights and statistics from around the league. You also get Gameday, a graphical tool for tracking the game pitch by pitch.
One glimpse at the Gameday screen lets you know who's on base, what happened the past few plays, who's pitching, who's at bat and, of course, what's the score.
You get a cartoon view of the stadium from where the umpire is standing behind home plate, complete with a generic batter standing on the correct side of the plate depending on whether he's left or right handed. The batter is even wearing the team's uniform.
As each pitch is hurled, you see a dot showing where the ball crosses the plate. The tracker also will let you know if it's a strike, ball, hit or out. And it will tell you the speed and the type of pitch coming across the plate.
It's a lot of information — the type die-hard fans eagerly absorb.
My favorite feature, though, is the ability to listen to any game through my phone. It offers home and away feeds, too, so I can switch to a different set of announcers if I don't like the way things are going.