and PS3

I’ve been an user since it launched. I was around back in the days when the mid-inning entertainment involved a creepy reflection of a guy shaving, visible through a pencil sharpener. Seriously. Every year, I’ve doled out around $100 for the right to watch baseball games on my computer, and put up with the oddities that came along with it. When they decided to stream the exact same commercial between every half inning, I persevered (barely). When the service inevitably wouldn’t work on opening day because they had switched technologies for no reason, I hung in there. When they looped the same 60 seconds of a Tom Petty song between each break, apparently in an attempt to drive us all insane, I stuck around. I’ve even come to terms with the ridiculous blackout policy, and just dealt with not being able to watch games that involve the Orioles, Nationals, Braves, or Reds, because I live a few states away from each of those cities.

Through it all, I’ve been a barely satisfied customer. The service provided has been good enough to justify all the crap that MLBAM put their customers through, and it gave me a way to watch baseball. It was baseball on a 15 inch screen, but it was still baseball. And it was good enough.

Last week, though, I discovered in a way that is no longer just good enough. It is amazingly awesome, and it’s through a PlayStation3. I am not at all into video games, but had been looking into building a computer that I could hook up to my TV in order to stream and Hulu to the television. Despite my best efforts, I quickly realized that piecing together all the components would run me at least a few hundred dollars, and it still wouldn’t replace my horrible cheap DVD player, and so a friend suggested I look into the $300 PlayStation3. It was essentially everything I needed in a pre-packaged box, plus it had the added benefit of being a Blu-Ray player, which I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. So, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m blown away. I’m used to struggling with to make it work. On my laptop, I was constantly installing plugins, fighting the wireless connection to try to keep up with the video feed, and dealing with the inevitable lag that followed whenever I’d try to do anything else at the same time. On the PS3, I turned it on, downloaded the software, and it ran. In high definition. With zero problems.

The user interface is fantastic. Pick whether you want to join a game live in progress or start at the beginning of the broadcast, and it loads up seamlessly. Want to jump to a specific inning? That’s two clicks. Pausing? One click. Jumping between games? Easy. It couldn’t be any easier to use, which is the opposite of what I’ve come to expect from over the years.

The picture quality is ridiculous. In a good way. I got an HDMI cord from monoprice for about $3, and I’m not going to pretend to know the visual difference between 720P or 1080P, but I can tell you that it looks about 40 bazillion times better than it ever has on my computer. The difference is staggering, and since I was able to just connect the machine directly to the modem, I’ve eliminated all the issues with the wireless connection. It runs as smooth as a normal television broadcast, only it gives me the benefit of a DVR.

I can’t believe this is the same product I’ve been using forever. I’ve begrudgingly handed MLB $100 a year for a product that was just good enough, but by making one simple investment, I’ve increased the quality of that product a hundred fold. I almost can’t bear the thought of pulling up a game on my laptop again. Thanks to the plugin for the PlayStation3, I get baseball on my TV again. I may never play a video game on the thing, but it’s already been worth $300 to me.

Seriously, if you’re watching on your laptop, consider a PlayStation 3. It will change your life, even if, like me, you will only be using it as a media streamer and DVD player. I couldn’t recommend the experience any more. It’s a home run.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.