The 2013 MLB season is just about to begin. Established baseball fans will already have their calendars arranged around the key dates, but newcomers may be unsure quite how comprehensively they can follow a regular season of 2430 games, plus the drama of the playoffs, from the other side of the Atlantic.
Thankfully there are various different ways in which you can enjoy the season ahead from the U.K.
Plenty of live games at a convenient time
Baseball fans soon get used to following games at all hours, but you don’t have to sacrifice sleep to enjoy the sport.
The time difference between the States and the U.K. means that games played during the day over there – normally with a 1 p.m. local start time – take place during the evening here. Most games on Sundays are played in sunlight, with a handful played at the same time on Saturday and several across the working week. You can read more about the week-day ‘early’ games played in 2012 in our two-part review (pt 1, pt 2).
One of the features we provide here is a weekly guide to the games being played at a convenient time for us in the U.K., giving you all the details so that you can plan your baseball schedule for the week ahead.
MLB TV coverage in Britain comes courtesy of ESPN America, with the halcyon days of free-to-air coverage on Five sadly behind us (although hopefully to return one day).
ESPN America provides a good selection of games all season long, normally somewhere in the region of 8-10 live games per week.
The one complicating factor this season is that the existing ESPN subscription package will change during the summer – the actual expected date is 1 August – when the BT Sports programming launches. BT recently bought up all of the ESPN UK rights, including MLB. They currently intend to continue with at least one ESPN branded channel and that is the likely place for MLB coverage from 1 August onwards.
We don’t yet know precisely what the BT Sports packages will contain, how much they will cost and all of the providers they will be available from. BT hasn’t yet come to an agreement to sell their channels through Virgin Media and their public comments suggest the two sides are not particularly close to coming to a deal. There’s still plenty of time for that to be resolved prior to August, but existing ESPN America subscribers via Virgin Media should be aware that it’s not yet certain whether they will be able to continue to watch MLB through their current provider from 1 August onwards.
The spirit of the good old ‘Baseball on 5’ show thankfully is alive and well due to the BBC’s continued support of MLB on 5 Live Sports Extra.
Nat Coombs and Josh Chetwynd will present live coverage throughout the season, typically one game per week on a Thursday evening, with some Sunday evening games thrown in for good measure alongside the All-Star Game in July and every game of the World Series in October.
The commentary is provided by one of the two respective team’s local radio network, offering up plenty of characters over the course of the season. Nat and Josh analyse the game and all of the latest MLB news in between innings, interacting with fans via Twitter and the Show’s Facebook page.
Baseball, just like cricket, works really well on the radio and listening to a game is a great way to unwind during the evening. 5 Live Sports Extra is available on DAB radio and TV, with U.K. residents normally being able to listen online via the BBC website too.
If you want to watch and listen to lots of baseball – and why wouldn’t you – then the online subscriptions available from MLB.com are like manna from heaven.
An MLB.TV subscription allows you to watch all 2430 regular season games and the playoffs, live or on-demand. Full details about the packages available, and the devices on which MLB.TV works in the U.K., can be found in our guide to the 2013 MLB.TV subscriptions.
Today (Saturday 30 March) MLB.com is offering free previews of MLB.TV, giving fans a chance to test their broadband/PC/mobile device set-up. In previous seasons they have also offered a ‘Free Game of the Day’ during week-days that provide another chance to test out the service before committing to buying a subscription.
So long as you’ve got a decent broadband package, chances are that once you test MLB.TV you’ll be hooked. It’s the perfect way to follow the whole season, whether you’re watching teams throughout the Majors or just concentrating on your chosen team’s fortunes.