Review: Vroop Liveboard

The digital age has exacerbated pro baseball’s grip on the 9-to-5 workforce, causing productivity to sink faster than Yahoo’s stock price once Opening Day rolls around. There are literally hundreds of websites, SMS services and audio or video streams to feed baseball fans’ unquenchable appetite for real-time score data. But none of them are as classy as the Liveboard.

This piece of hardware from the folks at Vroop brings some old-school, Field of Dreams glory to your desktop. It’s a real, honest-to-Yaz scoreboard, complete with an olive green face, a handsome ash frame and blinking LEDs. Plug in the USB Bluetooth dongle, download some software onto your computer, and the Liveboard will light up with the latest scores from around the league.

Tell it your favorite team and the Liveboard will show you the score whenever that team starts a game. If your team isn’t playing, it shows you other MLB games currently in progress within your team’s division. There’s also a setting to cycle through all of the games in the league.

The face of the Liveboard is also peppered with LEDs. It shows the names of the two opponents, the current score, which team is batting, the current inning, the positions of any baserunners, the count at the plate, the number of outs and the jersey number of the current batter.

But that’s all you get. Sure, it looks pretty sitting on your desk and all, but if you’re a true baseball nut (like me) you’re going to find the Liveboard far too limiting.

Baseball fans are total freaking nerds about the details. We like to know who’s pitching, who just got injured, what the current hitter’s average is and which late-inning substitution numbskull blew the throw to the plate that allowed the winning run. It’s the kind of agonizing compulsion that makes baseball fun. The Liveboard doesn’t offer any of this info.

Its steep $200 price tag brands the Liveboard as nothing more than a novelty — an expensive, SkyMall-style novelty. Yes, you get the hardware and a lifetime’s worth of scores delivered to your desk through computer magic (no subscription nonsense or recurring access fees) but you can get the same information for free with one of the dozens of software widgets for your Mac, PC, BlackBerry, iPhone or nearly any device that can connect to the internet.

I guess there’s some comfort in the fact that $200 is about what you’d pay for one of those fancy Tivoli radios to listen to the game. It’s also roughly the same cost as a decent ticket, a Polish, a few macrobrews, a giant foam cowboy hat and an airhorn. But, of course, none of those options come with blinking lights.

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