For the third consecutive year, MLB.com has come to Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies with three different challenges and one main goal: make something incredible.
As a sophomore in my second MLB College Challenge, I felt nervous but confident that I could hone the skills I’ve developed over the past year and bring together the talent of my teammates to rise to the challenge. The Payoff Pitch team, consisting of Andy Pregler, Jon Lee, Joey Creighton and myself, spent over 14 hours in the New Explorations in Information Science (NEXIS) lab creating a product we never imagined would end with an overwhelming success.
This Year’s Challenge
MLB.com’s members announced the challenge at 8pm: to use the trend of “gamification” to create an application, webpage, or other form of technology that MLB.com’s community can use. Excited to begin, Payoff Pitch and 20 other teams rushed to the iSchool to begin working.
Before we began, a presentation by Professor Nicholson helped us understand the complex realm and elements of gamification. He explained the idea that motivating people through physical rewards is less valuable than creating games with a competitive or conceptual reward. Inspired and excited by his presentation, we returned to NEXIS and posed a difficult but important question: how would we combine the love and culture of baseball with these gaming elements to create a popular product?
Over the next few hours, we brainstormed and spoke with MLB staff about our ideas. My inspiration for the game actually came from #ElectionClass because of an amazing phenomenon behind motivation that Professor Nicholson spoke about. I thought, “What elements of this class motivated me to do well?”
It wasn’t necessarily the grade, but rather the competition among my friends and the thrill of winning our mock election. Now, what about the baseball aspects? Although Andy is a passionate baseball fan, my knowledge about baseball is limited to home runs and the seventh inning stretch. However, we realized special moments like these are what connect fans of all kind to the game.
What We Created
After drawing on white boards, bouncing ideas off each other, and too many energy drinks, we created Fandom. This mobile application allows users to connect with their friends and the game of baseball while playing a game and learning more about the sport. When users log onto the app using their Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare accounts, they can create an avatar and choose to wear the jersey of their favorite players in “My Locker Room”. On game day, they select a player and earn points based on the player’s standing and performance that day.
However, this game takes these fantasy baseball elements to another level with “The Dugout” and “My Moments” elements. In My Moments, users can look back at major moments their selected players had in a given game and celebrate their ability to choose that player on that successful game. In The Dugout, users can compare themselves to their friends in certain groups and compete to create the best results possible.
Exhausted but proud, we finished our application and prepared to pitch our idea to MLB.com’s staff. All teams met at the Alliance Bank Stadium on Friday afternoon to complete a five-minute pitch in front of iSchool and MLB staff for a preliminary round. When our name was called to compete with four other groups in this round, we stepped up together and let Andy, a broadcast and digital journalism major and baseball aficionado, take the lead and deliver an amazing pitch.
The MLB staff member couldn’t stop smiling as Andy passionately spoke about the love of baseball and its integration into Fandom. After they deliberated, they announced our advancement into the next round. In disbelief, we excitedly celebrated and prepared ourselves for the final round.
Preparing for Round Two
The top teams from the four preliminary groups had their final chance to present their ideas to the MLB.com staff. We were third to present, and the first two teams had delivered equally great ideas. However, we were confident in our skills and ideas.
Payoff Pitch strode to the front of the room together ready to impress the judges. As we presented, the audience seemed a bit stunned. Not only did we have an amazing product, but also as sophomores, we had limited technological experience but created a flawless presentation. When we finished, our competitors and the MLB .com staff applauded us for our work. Excited, tired, and overwhelmed, I almost cried after our incredible performance. Not only had we created a fantastic idea, but despite our skills we created a product they really loved. I sat to wait for the results with feeling like I was the one who hit the home run.
Finally they announced the results, congratulating the teams and applauding their efforts. The winner was… Payoff Pitch! The room erupted in applause and we humbly but excitedly celebrated our win. From the beginning, I never would have thought our team, a group of sophomores, could even place, let alone win the MLB.com College Challenge.
That is the beauty of this contest; even though we had limited experience with technology, our ideas, teamwork, and creativity gave us the opportunity to win such a contest. As we left the ballpark as winners, we celebrated our victory together and realized we really had delivered that perfect pitch.