Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stat-Starved Fans Turn to Web

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stat-Starved Fans Turn to Web

Article excerpt

AKRON, Ohio -- Don Kriss has an awesome responsibility, sitting in the press box at Jacobs Field, scoring baseball games on a computer.

A single keystroke by Kriss changes World Wide Web pages for millions of information-hungry fans who want to know the score and want to know it right away. And, of course, there is a lot of money at stake with advertising on every page.

Kriss, 43, is a reporter for STATS Inc., a company that publishes sports data in books, on the Web and though other media, such as newspapers, magazines and television networks. When a pitcher throws a pitch, Kriss types a single key and fans around the world know if it was a ball, a called strike or a swinging strike.

For this, Kriss is paid $50 a night with an extra $10 tacked on if he finishes in a timely manner.

OK, so the money's not great, but the working conditions are sublime. He even gets all the hot dogs and nachos he wants, compliments of the Cleveland Indians.

Kriss has competition. Companies like Sports Ticker and Totalcast also seek to capitalize on the popularity of baseball and the Internet by providing "real time" representations of ballgames.

Some people actually watch the game on television and follow the computer version on their computers. Most of the time, the computer is less than a pitch behind the live action. That means fans can check the box score of any game and get up-to-the-minute information. Players of fantasy baseball are big fans of the service because they get points for each hit, homer, stolen base, etc., and can learn how they are fairing within minutes.

"The number of people watching Baseball Live has increased dramatically over the last year," said Stephanie Schuck of CBS Sportsline, which employs an unnamed "third party" to provide the information at its sports news Web site.

Robert Meyerhoff, vice president of STATS Inc., said his company's Web site at America Online had 175 million impressions last year (an impression is registered every time a banner add is completely loaded onto the user's screen). That does not include millions more times that users clicked onto STATS pages at other sites like ESPN.

Baseball statistics guru Bill James, along with John and Sue Dewan, founded STATS in 1986 and it remains a closely held private company. Meyerhoff declined to provide revenue figures, but said the company employs 100 people at its Morton Grove, Ill., offices.

"STATS has primarily been financed by internal finances," Meyerhoff said. "It was a labor of love through the early years with a small group of people. Over the years, because we have been profitable, we've generated financing from our own profits."

Part of the company's success comes from analyzing and repackaging the data from Kriss and other reporters around the country. …

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