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From CNN Interactive Writer Wayne Drash

April 10, 1997
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EST

(CNN) -- The rookie stands on the mound looking as if he's ready to toss a lamb chop past a hungry wolf. The chiseled veteran digs in, Louisville Slugger in hand. The sweet smell of fresh grass, dusty infields and leather mitts spreads across the ballpark.

"Ball-wun!" the ump shouts, his round index finger delicately noting the count.

It's that time of year again. Fans, with renewed optimism, dream of October. Ballplayers zone in on the record books. It's baseball at its best.

For baseball fans, there's almost no better place to keep tabs on the season than the World Wide Web, where you're no more than a click away from baseball's latest scoop.

Chat with baseball expert Peter Gammons. Visit the much-hyped Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves new ballpark. Get scores and highlights before the nightly newscast. Create your own fantasy baseball team. Discover what batter has been walked the most in the World Series.

It's as though baseball fanatics are joined together in an interactive curmudgeonry, the cyberspace field of dreams. Please, keep the rhubarb down while you scroll through an overview of only a handful of the thousands of baseball sites out there.

Batter up

For starters, head to Major League Baseball. Although heavy on the public relations, the site contains current and historic video clips and photographs, baseball rules, archives and a kids' section. Be sure to visit MLB's special site on Jackie Robinson, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his breaking baseball's racial barrier.

And many kudos to my favorite site, John Skilton's Baseball Links, which claims to be the Web's most comprehensive baseball link page with 2,510. Links to high school baseball teams, youth clubs, college teams, fantasy leagues -- you name it -- are available.

"If you can't find what you're looking for, it probably doesn't exist yet on the Internet," the site says.

Corporate sluggers

Baseball fans who want the most current scores should begin at one of the heavy hitters, such as ESPN, CNN or MSNBC's baseball pages. The sites feature many similarities -- prominently displaying articles and stats -- but each network has something different to offer.

  • ESPN has a great interactive feel. It offers chat-rooms, user-polls and sound bytes, providing a true multi-media feel that baseball fans of all ages can enjoy. For instance, visit ESPN's current user poll, and cast your vote on whether the tradition of baseball giveaways should continue. So far, fans support them nearly 2-to-1. (As of press time, more than 25,000 people had cast their ballots.)

    The ultimate stat monger should visit ESPN's "Stat Class," a compilation of statistics from The 1997 Baseball Encyclopedia. The site also has solid analysis from ESPN baseball analysts. The major down side: Some of the information is limited to subscribers only.

  • CNN offers less interaction but delivers the nuts and bolts of baseball news in solid fashion. Its best feature, which any baseball fan will devour, is its baseball scoreboard. It provides users with instant scores. Unlike other Web scoreboards, CNN's doesn't confine itself to the Majors. College scores and minor league scores and standings are available -- a godsend for those of us who grew up watching the minors.

  • MSNBC, like ESPN, has numerous interactive elements, ranging from chats to reader surveys. What fan wouldn't enjoy casting their vote for the 1997 World Series champion? (The Braves and Seattle Mariners are readers' current top picks.) But although interactive elements are readily available, the page's overall layout is not very user-friendly. Plus, finding the page takes some patience, because the link is buried off MSNBC's main sports section.

Pinch hitters Plenty of other sites are just as successful without the corporate glitz. You'll want to bookmark the following:
  • Fastball: Chats, stats, daily news, interactive games. Check out their ranking of current players.
  • Total Baseball: Daily updates, statistics, history.
  • Instant Sports: Up-to-the-minute baseball updates. An example from Thursday's action: "In the bottom of the second inning, Scott Aldred is pitching to Bob Higginson (0-0, .333). There are two outs. The count is full. Vince Coleman is on deck." Amazing!

Just the stats, please

Rounding the Internet's baseball diamond wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Baseball Encyclopedia, the most comprehensive statistics compiled in Major League history. You may even discover that Mickey Mantle has been walked the most in World Series play.

Also take a stroll through past, present and future ballparks at Ballparks by Munsey and Suppes. For a rating of ballpark food, visit Sports Illustrated's "Speaking Frankly" from last year.


Related sites:

Major League Baseball
John Skilton's Baseball Links
CNN Sports
Total Baseball
Instant Sports
Baseball Encyclopedia
Speaking Frankly
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