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Pinch hitting: Philip Fort

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Our next Pinch Hitter knows a thing or two about what he’s writing. Philip Fort is a 31-year-old digital media professional who works for large agencies in New York City. He has a master’s degree in informatics, which means he’s studied the way people engage in the digital experience and how it affects them.

Philip grew up sitting in the bleachers with his brother – “And is one of the few who still knows all the songs,” he wrote — and had season tickets for a few years. He said he honestly believes the worst part of summer is the All-Star break. “Just to many days without meaningful baseball,” he wrote.

For his post, Philip wrote about digital media’s impact on the fan experience.

[2]The digital age has changed so much of our lives, and in professional sports, baseball has been the most effected, from the fan experience to how the game is played. Since it is played basically every day, the internet and its ability to fill any impulse is the perfect medium.

It has changed how educated we are about the game and how we consume the media. No other sport has the ability to drive someone to check sites every day since there are simply less games to capture people’s attention. One can also look to the plethora of blogs out there, letting amateurs provide in-depth knowledge and analysis which has even led to a few getting professional careers in the field and help grow the game. I know many love fantasy football since it is once a week, but I prefer the ability to turn the page over on a day-to-day basis, having baseball be a daily passion and not just a report from practice.

Where baseball as a sport has been so successful is the ability to align like-minded people under a common passion. In the past, people have been in contact due to proxemics, but the web has allowed people to find others with a shared common interest and not just the neighbor next door. We have grown our social network leaps and bounds, which has allowed us to be in touch with similar people who help strengthen how we define who we are.

What has been very impressive is how senior members on sites have learned to police themselves and people truly love their communities. We have seen people respect the comments on sites such as this with more attention since they know they are like-minded people. If someone rocks the boat, the community is quite strong in minimizing an interloper’s effect.

With sabremetrics and advanced media, we have never been more knowledgeable. That is great, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Baseball is a data driven game so the access and tools to manipulate data are superb and have increased interaction.

The risk, of course, is that we have also become very obsessed with a screen and have lost that sense of a shared community. That has been replaced in the online space in sites such as this that I am sure we all check many times a day as part of a digital routine. The shared community has been redefined around a new focal point where we come to discuss the Yankees with an expanded and wiser audience.

One sad thing is the loss of waking up to open the paper and see the stats. That level of excitement has been dropped in favor for having the ability to touch the game whenever you want. The joy of going to a game has also been demeaned. With all of our big TVs, internet, and comforts at home, the game has become more enjoyable to watch from the ease of our couches or even a local bar. Add in that, if you want to go to a game, the planning is minimal and you can get tickets instantly below face value, which makes it more of a game to get the best seats at the cheapest price. The excitement of simply getting seats to a ballgame has diminished.

The human need for interaction is unchanged; people still yearn to be members of communities and groups. The internet, though, has spawned a new way for communities to form and for people to interact. Behavior is being molded in these communities by the type of communication. The medium of discussion has evolved and allows for humans to explore the world beyond their physical boundaries. Dvorak (1996) said it best, “the sociologists are going to love the next 100 years.”

We have become digital reliant and smarter. I wouldn’t go backwards, but sometimes it is nice to stop and smell the roses. Baseball as a sport has been most affected by the digital revolution. Attendance is still at record levels, but it has begin to drop and from ever raising prices and the increased abilities of the digital experience how we engage the game has changed and will continue to do so.

And thank you to Chad for letting me write this article.

Associated Press photo