If you can't be in the stands, follow the boys of summer on the Web


Warmer temperatures lately have brought the term "summer" back into everyone's vocabulary, and if you're a sports fan, you're well aware that the boys of summer are returning.

Opening Day for professional baseball is Tuesday, March 31, with a full schedule of National and American League teams beginning their seasons (Fellow Cincinnati Reds fans take note: The Reds -- baseball's oldest franchise -- play the San Diego Padres at 2:05 p.m. Tuesday).

I can't be in the stands that day, but I'll be following up on the action after the game with a trip or two to my favorite baseball sites on the World Wide Web.

CNNSI. One of the best preseason sites I've found is CNNSI's baseball coverage at http://cnnsi.com/baseball/.

There's you'll find not just the usual stores covering the sport, but a great team-by-team Baseball Preview, feature stories on some of the sport's players and managers, schedules, team histories, stats and more.

If you need an Opening Day fix, CNNSI has what you need.

FASTBALL. Another Web site you'll enjoy is Fastball. In addition to stories, features and stats, Fastball offers interactive games, chat areas, fantasy baseball, and even an online store offering baseball collectibles, books and accessories.

Fastball -- as the name implies -- is devoted solely to the sport of baseball. No NBA, NFL, AFL or what have you. Fastball's mission is baseball information, and it serves it up in generous portions.

Visit Fastball at www.fastball.com.

BALLPARKS. My final baseball-related Web site isn't so much about the sport as it is the places where it is played.

Ballparks by Munsey and Suppes features photographs and information on minor league, college, National and American League ballparks.

And you'll find not just existing ballparks featured at the site -- you can "visit" ballparks of the past and the future as well.

Even Cincinnati's old Crosley Field is featured in their ballparks of the past section, along with some interesting trivia for Baby Boomer Reds fans like myself.

Did you know that:

Crosley Field was the site of the first major league night game (Reds vs. the Phillies, May 24, 1935);

Crosley was built in time for the Reds' 1912 season at a cost of $225,000;

and though the Reds last played there in 1970, the ballpark was apparently popular with fans -- it was "reconstructed" on a farm near Union, Ky., and a full-size replica stands in Blue Ash, Ohio (the original Crosley Field was demolished in 1972).

The Ballparks site offers this kind of detail on parks that serve other sports as well, including basketball, football, hockey and more.

For more information, visit the Ballparks site at www.ballparks.com.

GET A REAL JOBS. The board of Apple Computer Inc. has been making offers to company co-founder and present interim CEO Steve Jobs in order to convince him to take the helm on a permanent basis.

Jobs, who took the job as interim-CEO when former head Gil Amelio was ousted by the board, has been publicly wary of keeping the post as a full-time job.

Rumors that he was being wooed with a deal including 5 percent of the company's stock sent its market price climbing last week.

Jobs is still serving as head of Pixar Animation Studios, and has publicly expressed a desire to spend more time with his family.

But Jobs' performance since taking the reins last year are worth noting.

The struggling computer maker is expected to post a profit in the second quarter of this year, and investors are encouraged by Jobs' moves to bolster the company and return to its core products.

TURN OFF THE TV. A new survey by Advertising Age confirms what most Internet users already know: Web users are spending less time watching television.

The survey, available in the next issue of Advertising Age, found that nearly 22 percent of the 100,000 Web users survey said they sacrifice time spent watching TV to use the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Newspapers and magazines suffered as well, with 12 percent of Web surfers saying the read fewer publications to spend time online.

GOT NET? Many existing users of the Internet plan to do more of their shopping via the Internet, according to a new survey.

The number of households that shop and invest online is expected to double by the end of the year, according to a survey of 120,000 consumers.

Forty-three percent of U.S. households own at least one PC, and 25 percent of all North Americans consider themselves users of the Internet.

While most of the early users and shoppers on the Internet were the more affluent buyers, the Forrester Research company predicts that the growth in online shopping will mean a wider range of economic backgrounds among users.

Many of these newcomers to electronic commerce will be tracking or buying stocks via the Web or doing banking over the Internet.

What will this mean to the average user?

Forrester Research sees online banks, grocery stores and retailers as potential growth areas for new online shoppers. Or in simpler terms, better services and more local products than ever before.

So what's holding back the boom in electronic shopping via the Internet?

Consumers' concerns about online security, according to Forrester. "The first marketing campaign to step up to the plate to promote the Internet as a secure environment to do business will be a clear-cut winner," said one Forrester analyst.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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