Major League Baseball used to be at the forefront of new tech integration. Being cutting edge is something that can propel the sport that we all know and love back to being America’s favorite pastime. MLB was the first major American sport to bring ease to mobile streaming during the early years of the iPhone. Teams were early adopters of iPad usage during gameplay for statistical analysis. But in the years that followed, it seems the sport that started the analytical wave is now lagging behind. If MLB regroups and recaptures a lost generation of fans, it will be by revisiting their relationship with technology. It’s there for the taking and the metaverse is the answer.
One of the most controversial and untapped reaches of society, the metaverse is a digital subsidiary of society where the online universe seamlessly integrates to and with your real-world self. Here you can interact with an entirely different realm of opportunity than you have ever even thought of. This is a think piece for the MLB and for their fans to realize the future is here and this is potentially what it could look like. This may not be the end-all-be-all solution for every fan and hopefully, this will spark debate over how the sport can evolve in the short and long term.
***This is meant to be in the perspective of an everyday MLB fan consuming their baseball action in the comfort of their own home while using the metaverse to attend the game***
Before the Action
Just making the decision to go to a baseball game used to be a hassle. You’d most likely need to head out of work a little early, come back home to change into your fan gear, and then make your way to the ballpark. Parking is a nuisance in most cities and then you need to get through the gate. Not any longer. The metaverse has you covered to allow you to instantly step into the game. Let me take you on a mind-bending rollercoaster to show you the unthinkable quest of the futuristic MLB fan. Let’s see how that would work.
Purchasing your ticket is as simple as the click of a button. Instead of pulling out your wallet to find your credit card information, you have a linked crypto wallet attached to your fan account. Local blackouts are the worst! How long has this been an issue for paying members with an MLB.TV subscription? Well, all of that is a thing of the past since the metaverse is all-encompassing. You can digitally check in to the game with your ticket from a virtual gate attendant.
Boom, new experience and you didn’t even know it. Gone are the days of remembering to save your ticket stub to add to your collection. These digital tickets are now instantly NFTs! One tap adds today’s ticket to your ticket book at home to one day show your kids. The game doesn’t start for an hour, so let’s see what you can do while you wait!
Everyone needs some food to have either before or during the game. Make sure that you’re stocked up and ready to go. You pre-order some of your favorite stadium eats and have them brought right to your door with STADI-YUM (fictionally based app), a new ballpark delivery app that promises lukewarm food at exorbitant prices, sponsored by the Commissioner’s Office. We can schedule this to arrive whenever you’d like, so right before the first pitch seems like the right time.
Now we can deck ourselves out with some fan gear. The cool thing is that you can use a virtual mirror to try on different wardrobe pieces. There is also the capability to use AR (augmented reality) so that you can see if a glowing neon sign with your favorite team’s logo will fit in your living room. Found a shirt you love? Great. You can order it to be sent straight to your house! Everyone loves when they find a style they can show off their fandom with. Luckily, each piece is able to be applied to your digital metaverse avatar so that you can “wear it” to the game right now!
That didn’t take long and there’s still about 45 minutes to spare. This timeline matches up perfectly to watch the end of batting practice. So you head down to the field to check out your favorite player. Royce Lewis just got the call to the show! Get behind the cage and see how he’s tracking breaking pitches. Betting on the game? Head on over to watch Justin Verlander loosen up. The Statcast data you saw last week showed a dip in velocity and spin rate, so get a pitching coach’s sightline to see for yourself how he looks before you make that wager. If you’d prefer an expert opinion, there’s always the opportunity to have a former pitching coach analyze the session with you as part of a VIP package.
It’s almost game time now and you have been dying to listen to The Weeknd’s new album. Throw it in your queue so that you can get a few tracks in while you wander through the concourse. There is the ability to choose whichever music you’d like from your subscribed streaming service. While we’re talking about stadium sounds, maybe your kids are watching with you. Be sure to toggle the explicit language filter on so that they don’t hear anything you may not approve of. There is even the capability to rate fans around you. This will give others a heads up that maybe they have some gruesome trash talk of the opponents that not everyone is a fan of.
Play Ball! Experience the Game for Yourself
Now that we’ve made our way to the seats, your team is out of the gates hot with a leadoff walk, followed by a two-run homer lead to the starting pitcher being chased early. In total, it’s a four-run first inning. Gleaming with optimism is a euphoric state that fans yearn for. Now you have the ability to stake this feeling with another wager. Ever-changing odds and in-game parlays give consumers the ability to place a bet on virtually every pitch and outcome of the game.
Advertising is one of the most sought-after revenue streams that MLB teams rely on. In the metaverse, specifically tailored advertisements placed in the background of your ticketed seat’s vantage point can help make this a marketing goldmine. Maybe your kid keeps staring over at the outfield pool if you’re at Chase Stadium in Arizona. Advertisers can instantly send you promotions for water theme parks located just two hours from your home — valid only for a week after the game.
Accidents always happen. How many times have you seen beer spill while watching a game? The aforementioned STADI-YUM has you covered. That was your last cold one so your connected refrigerator alerts the STADI-YUM app to confirm your selection. Before you’re done cleaning up the mess a fresh sixer is already on its way!
FTOs (Fan Token Offerings)
Just sitting and watching the game has been all you’ve ever known. Even during the offseason the only thing to do is follow along on social media for the latest free agent signings or blockbuster trades. The metaverse is here to change that.
Most sports fans know anyone has the ability to own a share of the Green Bay Packers when shares come up for sale, but that’s about it. Nowadays it’s FTOs and they are quickly sprouting up with team contracts across every major sporting league in the world. Fan Tokens are blockchain-based coins that monetize fan experience. From voting rights on training facility names to special rewards for season ticket holders and everything in between. If Cleveland was able to utilize this, maybe FTO holders would’ve voted for a different name instead of the Guardians. Uniform designs, mascots, you name it. Pricing for these tokens is market-based as well. The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a higher cost associated per token than the Baltimore Orioles. Our own Alex Fast would be the whale for O’s tokens in the future. Who knows, maybe the Cubs are in for another 108-year drought. It would be pretty cool to show your team loyalty dating all the way back to the beginning of that streak.
Blockchain companies such as Socios offer these FTO’s on their digital platform. They are partnering with the NBA, NHL, & a host of different soccer clubs around the world to bring fan experience to the next level. Are you a token holder? You can have access to in-game experiences the average fan does not have access to. Seats in the dugout, third base coach views, and helmet camera angles for base runners are just a start of how the “club box suite” experience can be more immersive than ever before.
In-game token purchases can even net you the ability to have the mascot come sit with you and your family for your child’s birthday. Say you want to show off your own athleticism. Enter the Presidential Race at Nationals’ Park. Use your fitness tracker to base speed and distance to see if you have what it takes to win.
In the metaverse, every traditional fan experience is taken to the next level. This is Barry Bonds…the BALCO version. Dance Cam, Kiss Cam, trivia are all souped-up versions of themselves on steroids. These can be utilized to reduce downtime and include all fans, not just some. Fans can even connect straight to social media accounts! Just think of the complete integration each fan will be able to have!
Congratulations! Based on your interaction level and purchasing during today’s game, your fan score was in the Top 10% of users attending the game. You receive an exclusive pack of NFT trading cards linked to your fan account, à la NBA Top Shot or NFL All Day.
Ever wanted to be in the locker room with the reporters postgame? Now is your chance. Go find your favorite player during the designated media session to watch for yourself.
Where We Go From Here
Now it’s back to life as usual. This whole experience was built without you leaving the confines of your couch for the most part and was able to incorporate aspects of connectivity to the game that were never possible before! Welcome to MLB’s future metaverse!
We are at the precipice of traditional fandom. With each year that passes, we get more and more of a peek behind the curtain for what is to come. Obviously, huge corporations are going to leverage this to the fans, but this conversation can help mold the clay to set a foundation of what our expectations are as fans. Check out the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the 1st professional sports team with an in-game Metaverse.
Welcome to the “Netaverse” 🏀
This weekend, the Brooklyn Nets debuted a brand new, innovative video system creates 3D, lifelike renderings in seconds.
The Nets are the first pro sports team in America to implement the technology.pic.twitter.com/TopdvOM9IU
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) January 17, 2022
Please feel free to comment, dialogue, and converse about the endless possibilities MLB fans can expect to experience. The barriers are clear: licensing, choice of vendors, and even the insured market price of crypto on a given day. But these are things being worked out in real-time by other sports, such as WWE, NBA, and NHL teams. The blueprint is there. Implementation is next.
Illustration and image by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerGuyBoston on Twitter and @SPDesigns__ on Instagram)