MLB's Baseball History Comes Alive With Cooperstown's iOS App

Just in time for the annual All-Star Game, this free app by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a gem for baseball fanatics.

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Baseball lovers now have something to relish as they spend hours driving in their vehicles: a new baseball history app from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum that can turn every drive into a baseball adventure in cities and towns across the country.

The interactive free iOS app, called BHOF Beacon, debuted earlier this year and is constantly being updated with new fascinating and historic baseball sites for travelers. The app uses smartphone or tablet GPS locations to highlight nearby notable destinations for visitors to explore, providing a grand slam of baseball history to Major League Baseball fans on their iPhones and iPads

Just in time for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game on July 14 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and for the 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y., the BHOF Beacon app provides baseball fans with rich historic details about the national pastime, whether they are driving to Cooperstown or heading anywhere else.

Using the app, a visitor approaching Cooperstown can learn about intriguing MLB landmarks along the way, such as the location of the long-shuttered Ebbets Field where Jackie Robinson made his major league debut on April 15, 1947, as well as the Grand Central Hotel, where the National League was born in 1876. The app also includes road trip capabilities that provide curated baseball-themed road trip routes for users, as well as alerts when a historic baseball location is approaching.

Donny Lowe, the director of digital strategy for the Hall of Fame, told eWEEK that the app was created to whet the appetites of baseball lovers who still haven't made it up to Cooperstown to visit the museum. That's why the app blazes a trail to Cooperstown on its opening screen every time a user opens the app, he said.

"One thing that we found is that there are a whole lot of baseball fans who know about the Hall of Fame and haven't gotten here yet, but it's on their bucket list," said Lowe. "This app ultimately leads you to Cooperstown," to help lure them to finally arrive here in the place that is filled with the history, charm, lure and beauty of the game of baseball.

The BHOF Beacon app, which is only available for iOS devices at present but is being eyed for Android devices in the future, is location-aware, so if a user is close to a historic baseball site, they will get a notification on their devices.

Plenty of sites are already included, but there is still so much more that will have to be added, he said. The Hall of Fame Museum has about 40,000 physical items in its collection, as well as about 3 million documents and letters pertaining to baseball, and some 300,000 photographs, most of which still need to be added to the database that the apps are using.

"It's a project that will never be finished" because there will always be more information to be added, Lowe said.

Many major cities are not yet added to the app, including Philadelphia, where the rich history of the Phillies is waiting to be placed thoroughly into the app's database.

"The reality is that the breadth and depth of our collection will make this a project that goes on for decades," said Lowe. "We are prioritizing content now. We want to cover, nationwide, any place where a historic baseball moment has happened."

The history of baseball's Negro leagues will be included and is currently being researched by a Hall of Fame intern for eventual inclusion in the database, said Lowe. Minor league baseball history will also be included, with support from league officials already being very positive, he added.

"The app serves to be the extension of the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum and its collections," said Lowe. "It's about storytelling."