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Better than being there? Sports teams try to attract a tech-savvy crowd
Terry Pluto says free Wi-Fi and faster cell phone service at games are must-haves for fans

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
This week, the Indians announced a partnership with Verizon Wireless to offer in-park 4G LTE and Wi-Fi at Progressive Field.
Courtesy of Joshua C. Cruey \ Orlando Sentinel
Download (WKSU Only)

Pro sports teams are working vigorously to keep up with fans in the digital age…and in turn, keep them coming to games. HDTV makes it easy to want to stay home, while fans at games often experience slow – or no - cell phone service as networks get bogged down at a stadium.

This week, the Indians announced a partnership with Verizon Wireless to offer in-park 4G LTE and Wi-Fi at Progressive Field. Last fall, the Browns installed a new cell tower, and is considering adding wireless access. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about whether the grass greener with a smart-phone in your hand.

LISTEN: Terry Pluto on tech-savvy fans

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Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:15)

Terry Pluto admits he grew up in a time when a trip to the ballpark was visual magic.

“When I was young a hundred zillion years ago, there were three channels and you watched a baseball game and there were 20 a year on, and it was in black and white. So when you walked into the old stadium down on the lakefront … and suddenly you saw this wide expanse of green grass and the perfectly tailored lines going down, it was this panoramic colorful thing that you would never imagine from watching a game on TV.”

TV often offers what in-person visit cannot
“TV has gotten so good, I position myself in the press box where I can make sure I can see a TV, too. The TV is giving me the break of the pitches, … It’s so much easier to see than just looking down at the game.”

Social media 
But for many, the idea of watching a game on TV is old-school, too. Smart phones and tablets have taken TV’s place – even in the ballpark itself

“For example, … somebody is following their fantasy team while watching the Indians. This is all going out over different forms of social media. And (Indians President) Mark Shapiro  told me, ‘If we don’t get that, people (watching) other teams, it creates another barrier to people coming to our games.’”

Games themselves rely more on technology
The games themselves are increasingly relying on technology, including instant replay. And Pluto says the fans want to join in by going to their iPads and “checking your own replays and making your own decisions.”

And Pluto says if part of the goal is to engage fans, it's not all bad. "I’m just saying it’s so different and interesting and unfathomable to somebody who used to see 20 games a year on black and white TV, beg his dad to take him to a game, buy a scorecard for a dime, sit behind home plate as close as you can and just think: There cannot possibly be a better view than at the old stadium about 40 rows up from behind home plate watching a baseball game where the grass is really green.”

But times – and fan experiences – change. Pluto says Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was the first to figure that out in Cleveland, and “the Browns and the Indians have been trying to catch up and figure out what their fans want.”

Pluto on what is next for the Cavs in the offseason
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Related WKSU Stories

Terry Pluto on college sports, unions, and where it all may be heading
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Terry Pluto on Cavs' Irving, Waiters and the patience of age
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pluto's prediction: Tribe will win 85 games, miss the playoffs
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pluto: Indians' Progressive Field is still magical 20 years later
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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