Catching a foul ball can be one of the greatest joys for baseball fans. Only a handful of the thousands who spend their night at the ballpark find themselves in the right place at the right time to take home those prized souvenirs.
The Seattle startup is collecting location data from foul balls and crunching all that information into a stadium heat map like the one to the right. The end result is a seating chart that shows fans the best place to sit if they want to increase their chances at catching a foul ball.
The team at IdealSeat spent the entire baseball season last year at Safeco Field, harvesting location data from every foul ball. IdealSeat also crowdsources its information and, with its app, allows users to record their own foul ball data based on what they’re observing at the game.
While IdealSeat is in its very early stages, the potential of the idea is intriguing. It doesn’t have to just be about foul balls — how about the seats closest to your favorite beer? What about the places that have the least amount of sun?
“We just want to help people find the best place to sit it in the sun, drink a cold beer and catch a foul ball,” co-founder and CEO Joel Banslaben said.
Currently, IdealSeat only works for two stadiums: Safeco and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. But there are plans to have three-to-five “research team members” collect data at places like Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
The past year has been about building out the technical side, but now the company is focusing on developing a business model. IdealSeat has partnerships with SeatGeek and gets commission for any tickets purchased through its site.
But long-term, I could see a company like TicketMaster or StubHub incorporating this type of technology into their platforms — and it doesn’t just have to be professional baseball. It could also be implemented past athletics to something like music concerts, where the app could tell you where the speakers are so you aren’t blowing your eardrums out during a show.
“The scalability of a fan engagement platform is really infinite,” Banslaben said.
There are currently five people working on IdealSeat, along with a team of advisors that includes including stat-obsessed, professional player Sam Fuld. The startup just finished in second place at the MLBAM Bases Coded Challenge for another app they developed called PlayerView.
Most of the attention, however, is on IdealSeat’s foul ball platform. Banslaben hopes that the app will be used by fans attending games at every MLB stadium around the country.
IdealSeat is the first attempt I’ve heard of in terms of collecting this type of data for this purpose, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of traction the company gets.