Team's Internet service promises an insider's view

July 26, 1999|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,Sun Staff

Want to make your online home at The Yard?

No problem, hon. The Baltimore Orioles begin offering their own nationwide dial-up Internet service today.

The service offers O's fans their own "vanity" e-mail addresses and Web pages. So now you can be joe@theorioles.com. Or even mikemussinasbiggestfan@theorioles.com.

Team officials are also planning to offer subscribers exclusive online chat sessions with coaches and players, live Web cams that broadcast batting practice, and the ability to listen in during the preseason draft sessions.

The Orioles say the service is the first of its kind for major-league baseball. But it's not a sports first for Baltimore -- the Ravens and PSINet launched a similar service for football fans in January.

"We're going to give people stuff they can't get from being behind home plate," says Spiro Alafassos, director of ballpark entertainment for the Orioles.

"It's really your 'in' into the Orioles' front office."

And the O's front office listens. When a group of fans who knew each other only through the Orioles' Web site agreed to finally meet in person at a recent game, management cooked up a surprise, delivering floppy hats to the group and flashing a welcome message on the Jumbotron.

"After the game, we logged on to see what they thought," Alafassos says. "We love eavesdropping! It's so much fun for us."

The Orioles' new Internet service costs $14.95 a month for unlimited Internet access. Orioles officials say fans who want to keep their current Internet service provider but still want access to the online chats and other perks will pay a reduced rate, which remains to be determined.

For more signup information, visit www.theorioles. com.

To provide Web access, the Orioles have contracted with UltraStar, a New York company that specializes in "branded" celebrity Internet services. Its most famous client is rock star David Bowie (www.davidbowie.com).

The Baltimore Ravens' Internet service, Ravens- zone.net, charges a one-time setup fee of $24.95 and $19.95 a month for Internet service and other goodies. To sign up, call 1-877-RAVENFAN or visit www.baltimoreravens.com.

Pub Date: 07/26/99

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