AT&T Park embraces hi-tech toys


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Talking is a thing of the past; now it's texting, e-mailing and updating our Facebook accounts -- all from our Internet-enabled phones.

At AT&T Park in San Francisco, these two activities come together: Free wi-fi is served up to Giants fans -- who log on with enthusiasm.

"The busiest game we had was this season, when 1,310 fans logged on to our network," said Bill Schlough, the Giants' chief information officer.

While the occasional laptop is seen in the stands, Schlough said in tech-savvy San Francisco, it's all about the smart phone.

"We do see during a typical game that about 80 percent of our traffic is from iPhones or iPod touches," he said.

In the bowels of AT&T Park, Schlough said there is enough computing power to run a small city.

"We're supporting 350 concession stands that are doing over 25,000 transactions per game, we've got 42,000 fans coming through the turnstiles for every game, and we're serving Wi-fi through 139 access points positioned throughout the park," he said.

During big games, the Giants open up the Internet connection to run 100 megabits of connectivity through the wi-fi routers. That's geek speak for wicked-fast Internet.

During last Monday night's game against the L.A. Angels, iPhones were everywhere.

We caught two people updating their Facebook accounts, one checking work e-mail, one texting the babysitter and a pair of friends trying to find out who got voted off their favorite reality show.

Lest it seem that the slow pace of baseball leaves all fans searching for something else to occupy their attention, the real technology marvel here is the baseball content served up by and the Giants' digital dugout.

By purchasing a $10 iPhone app from MLB, fans can access the pitch tracker, a graphic that shows where every pitch crosses the plate. They also can listen to audio streams of games all across the league.

The Giants' Digital Dugout Web site also offers on-demand video replays.

Say you are in the bathroom when the Giants hit a home run. Call it up on your phone to see the missed moment.

Food at Your Finger Tips at AT&T Park

Even cooler, replays of controversial calls are available online even though they won't be replayed in the stadium.

"If we were to put a controversial play on the Diamond Vision [scoreboard] that went against the Giants, actually the fan reaction would not be very positive," Schlough said.

But fans can call the replay up on their phones to check the umpire's call. The Giants' system also offers a food finder: Just input the location of your seat, then dial up all kinds of food available in the stadium. Choose Mexican or Italian, search by brand of beer, pick the type of hot dog that catches your fancy.

The food finder directed a fan choosing Sheboygan Bratwurst to the nearest concession stand with that particular delicacy on hand. Yummy.

To get a little "Inside Baseball" on the tech aspects of the park, "Good Morning America Weekend" asked Schlough about the voice-over IP phone system the Giants recently installed.

In Ma Bell's park, all calls are being routed over the Internet (think Skype) to save the team money.

"It used to be voice-over IP had a stigma to it," he said. "People were fearful of dropped calls, garbled sounds. It's quite the opposite for us. And it's saving us a ton of money."

These days AT&T is in the VOIP business, so it's not as strange as it may seem, and to the Giants, the $400,000 annual savings are a thing of beauty.

"The Major League Baseball minimum salary for a player is about $400K a year, so VOIP saves us enough money to pay for a player," said Schlough.

So while America's pastime has changed little on the field, in the stands and the back offices it's a whole new ballgame.

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