SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Giants bring scorecard into 21st century with Palm ‘beaming stations’

The tradition of baseball fans hand-scoring a game at the ballpark seems to have gone the way of twilight doubleheaders and multipurpose stadiums. With attention spans growing shorter and stadiums providing all manner of in-game entertainment, some fans struggle just to keep track of who's winning. Only die-hard traditionalists, it seems, follow a game closely enough to record each at-bat.

The San Francisco Giants hope to resurrect scorekeeping with a 21st century twist. Beginning with the team's home stand against the San Diego Padres this week, fans will be able to score each batter electronically on their hand-held Palm devices.

Before the game, fans can take their Palm units to one of three "beaming stations" located on the concourse levels at Pacific Bell Park. There they'll be able to download updated rosters, statistics, lineups, pitching matchups and biographical information.

The service, an outgrowth of Palm's existing marketing relationship with the Giants, will be available free of charge to fans. Larry Baer, the club's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the innovation is a natural fit for a team near Silicon Valley.

"We're always looking for any possible way to create new technological advantages for us," Baer said. "A lot of the things we're doing are state-of-the-art, and we will continue to push in those directions."

Club officials say they'll wait for fan feedback to determine what other wrinkles the service will offer in the future. One possibility is a digital baseball card, perhaps sponsored and produced by a licensed manufacturer, that could be downloaded at the park and "traded" to other Palm owners.

"We're figuring this out as we go along," said Matt Ellis, who handles the Palm account for the Giants. "The idea is to get people coming back to the station."

The beaming stations, a joint venture between Palm and San Francisco-based WideRay Corp., consist of three book-sized "jacks" that send high-speed infrared beams of information. Fans need only stand within 15 feet of the jacks and hold up their Palm units.

Christian Leone, the chief operating officer for WideRay, said the initial download of Giants information should take as little as 10 seconds. Updates, perhaps released during the game, could take even less time.

"It's something a fan could visit between innings on the way to the concession stand or rest room," Leone said.

WideRay also plans to install beaming stations at malls, enabling customers to download maps, movie times and coupons. The technology made its sports debut in April at Stanford's intrasquad spring football game.

To introduce the system at Pac Bell Park, Palm will be the sponsor of a new "Scoring 101" segment that will air on the ballpark scoreboard. After Giants game footage is aired, fans will be given four choices on how to score the play.

Once the answer is given, fans who have not done so already will be directed to the beaming stations to have their Palm devices activated.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm Inc. came on board as a Giants sponsor last year after the company spun off from parent 3Com Corp.

Keith Bruce, a senior vice president of Foote Cone & Belding Sports Marketing, Palm's agency, said Palm likely would not have extended the deal for two years were it not for the added value of being able to showcase the scorecard service. Similar Palm-based technology is available at 24 PGA Tour sites.

"We want people to use their Palms in conjunction with the event," Bruce said. "If this goes over well with the Giants, we'd likely pursue other venues."

The Giants, who have packed Pac Bell Park since its opening a year ago, do not need incentives to draw more fans. "We're not sure how many people bring Palm units to the park," Ellis said. "But this is something that can enhance the fan experience for a significant portion of our fans."

n SPONSORSHIP CD-ROM: A Phoenix company has created an interactive CD-ROM product it believes will help teams better market sponsorships. New Tier Inc., which is best known for its interactive screen saver CD-ROMs that have been given out at more than 100 sporting events, has produced a CD-ROM for the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Pepsi Center that showcases all of the arena's potential advertising space.

"Potential sponsors can get a good idea of what their logo would look like in the building without ever visiting," said Michael Rossman, CEO of New Tier.

Rossman said New Tier can produce 2,500 CD-ROMs for a team or arena at a cost of between $10,000 and $15,000.

Pete Williams (peteweems@aol.com) is a writer in Florida.

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