Faster Games, Faster Networks, Epic Experiences: A Preview of the 2023 MLB Season

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MLB® games are poised to be faster and more action-packed this season with updates to the pitch timer, restrictions on defensive shifts, and larger bases. In addition to gameplay, Wi-Fi connections in ballparks are speeding up too. Fifteen MLB ballparks currently have Extreme Wi-Fi deployed, and another four will deploy new Extreme Wi-Fi networks in 2023.

MLB and its teams use Extreme's Wi-Fi, cloud, and analytics solutions to connect players, fans, and staff, enhance the fan experience, and improve play. Extreme Wi-Fi 6 access points are deployed in all 30 ballparks in the dugouts and bullpens so that players can use iPads to access real-time stats, information, and video replays to make in-game adjustments. Clubs that have embraced technology and data are seeing more success; from the 2022 Division Series to the World Series, the teams that utilized the network devices the most advanced to the Championship Series and then World Series.

"The clubs who embrace technology and embrace data are the ones that are more successful… and we see a clear correlation between traffic on our iPads and winning on the field." – Chris Marinak, Chief Operations & Strategy Officer, Major League Baseball

MLB hitters have less than a second to decide whether they will swing at a pitch after it's left the pitcher's hand. According to studies, it's actually about 125 milliseconds – less than the time it takes to swing (150 ms). Wi-Fi latency, also measured in milliseconds, shows how quickly it takes to transfer data and how efficient the network is. Since fans expect real-time access to game stats, social media, mobile sports betting applications, venue applications, and more, latency needs to be as low as possible. To meet the real-time connectivity demands of fans, Wi-Fi latency needs to be faster than the time it takes an MLB hitter to decide whether or not to swing at a ball. Practically instantaneously. To speed up those fan connections and experiences, more MLB teams are outfitting their ballparks with the latest and fastest Wi-Fi solutions and technologies. Six teams deployed our Wi-Fi solutions before Opening Day 2023, including the San Francisco Giants, whose ballpark, Oracle Park, is the first fully Wi-Fi 6E-enabled venue.

The San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park

"Extreme provides high bandwidth and reliability. It works, and we think it will provide data on what fans are doing. Cisco can't do that." – Bill Schlough, CIO, San Francisco Giants in Forbes.

Sports venues are working to optimize all operations, from concessions to connectivity, customer service, entry to the ballpark, and more, to bring more fans to games and keep them coming back for more. Connectivity is paramount not just for allowing fans to access social media, sports betting applications, and streaming video but for enabling faster entry into the stadium, speeding concessions with mobile ordering and contactless payments, and getting questions answered faster. According to the San Francisco Giants CIO, "We were looking for faster connectivity speeds and more capacity." The Giants are refreshing their Wi-Fi to Extreme from a legacy Cisco network. With the new network, the Giants can ensure fan connections and gain insight into who is coming to the stadium and what they are doing there. To learn more about the San Francisco Giants use case, check out this Forbes Article.

Looking to the Future

Baseball is getting a much-needed upgrade this season, and so are the Wi-Fi networks underpinning the digital fan experiences. It's not just the MLB; other professional sports leagues are turning to the network as a differentiator in attracting fans and better engaging them during sporting events. As the blended stadium experience continues to take shape, digital experiences will underline the in-person experiences fans have in a stadium. Strong, reliable, and fast Wi-Fi connectivity is a necessity, not a luxury.

"For our customers and employees, Wi-Fi is not a pain point anymore… What's really great is to see things like 20,000 users on the Wi-Fi, and the environment doesn't skip a beat." Randy George, VP of Technology Operations for the Boston Red Sox, shares more about their 2022 Extreme Wi-Fi 6 deployment at Fenway Park and the new 5,000-seat MGM Music Hall attached to the ballpark in this Stadium Tech Report Feature.

Stadiums will also continue to invest in the network to gain valuable insights into what fans do on game day. Venues and teams will be able to offer a more engaging experience for fans by using data to identify where crowds are forming, where they need to improve security, and which areas are underutilized in terms of fan traffic and activity. With Extreme's Wi-Fi and analytics solutions deployed in the dugouts and bullpens of all 30 MLB ballparks and Wi-Fi for fans deployed in soon-to-be 19 ballparks, the player and fan experience will be more connected and faster this season. To learn more about Extreme's work as the Official Wi-Fi Solutions and Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of MLB, please visit https://www.extremenetworks.com/mlb/. The 15 MLB ballparks with completed Extreme Wi-Fi network deployments include:

·        Baltimore Orioles

·        Boston Red Sox

·        Cincinnati Reds

·        Chicago Cubs

·        Chicago White Sox

·        Cleveland Guardians

·        Detroit Tigers

·        Kansas City Royals

·        Miami Marlins

·        New York Mets

·        Pittsburgh Pirates

·        San Diego Padres

·        San Francisco Giants

·        Seattle Mariners

·        St. Louis Cardinals

Solutions deployed include ExtremeWireless Wi-Fi 6 and 6E access points, ExtremeCloud, ExtremeAnalytics, and Extreme Universal Switches.

*Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with the permission of Major League Baseball. Visit MLB.com.

About the Author
Lisa Yeaton
Manager, Social Media

Lisa Yeaton is a Social Media Manager at Extreme Networks. In her role, Lisa oversees all of Extreme's corporate social media accounts and creates corporate communications content.

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