Kings co-owner Andy Miller grew up watching the Boston Red Sox and has been a fan of baseball in general for a long time.
After moving to California from Boston and working for a little company called Apple, he made a move into the baseball world four years ago when he became a co-owner of the Modesto Nuts Minor League Baseball team. With technology and data front and center in his professional life, Miller, much like majority owner Vivek Ranadive, is able to glean the principles that have made the companies of Silicon Valley successful and apply them to sports.
His experience as the former vice president of mobile advertising for Apple and the current chief operating officer of Leap Motion Inc. has led him to the conclusion that one of the reasons Major League Baseball is trailing the other major sports in popularity is because it isn't appealing to the "Instagram generation."
Miller recently wrote about the conundrum baseball has found itself in for Peter Gammons' site Daily Gammons. His unique perspective of fan turned to technology star turned to minor and major league team owner is one that Gammons wanted him to write about. In his article, Miller states that the MLB should use Facebook's Core Values to kick the league into the next gear: focus on impact, move fast, be bold, be open and build social value. The principles are intertwined with solving problems with the fan experience, being more open with data and including fans in the decision-making process through social media - all aspects Miller and Ranadive have seemed to implement this season in Sacramento.
The goal, among others: activate the Kings social media generation.
"Trying to open everything up because we don't really own the team, the city owns the team and the fans own the team, and if they're not feeling like they are participating and building this thing then it is a big mistake and it won't have lasting social value," Miller said.
From gathering fan feedback on Twitter to online fan surveys on the new downtown arena, the Kings have made several attempts this season to make the fans feel included in the ride.
In his Gammons piece, Miller wrote about how Major League Baseball should be more open with its data because "the common thread is that an open platform gives equal access to data where folks can take and add to the platform to build their own creations in other ways than the platform host intended."
Miller is heading up the Technology Committee for the Kings at the request of Ranadive. His first major duty on the committee was launching the new Kings app at the beginning of this season. The app, which is now available on the iOS and Android platforms, incorporates the data capabilities of Ranadive's company Tibco to "allow people to do things that they couldn't do before." It adds new functionality, including targeted information for season ticket holders, the ability to purchase tickets and merchandise and has a digital cowbell feature. But for Miller, a man who once reported directly to Steve Jobs, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"The app is definitely a work in progress and we wanted to get something out very quickly for opening day, and obviously, only had a short period of time to work on it, so Phase 1 was to add more functionality," Miller said.
Phase 2, according to Miller includes enhancements to the user/social experience over the next few weeks based on fan feedback, followed by a complete redesign after the NBA All-Star break.
"We want people to go to the app to have a conversation," Miller said.
Outside of the app, Miller and the Kings' Technology Committee is full steam ahead on the technology aspects of the new downtown arena, with the endgame of developing an arena experience that is visual and packed with technology.
"We want to make it the top sort of integrated technology experience ... just step into a Kings world that is all connected and follows you around, and I think a couple years from now, that will be a big reality and we'll be a model for the rest of professional sports," Miller said.
And then there's the crowd noise in the new arena. Earlier this season, Kings fans broke the Guinness World Record for indoor crowd roar. Miller said he wants to see the new arena enhance that home court advantage possibly through the design concepts that some football stadiums utilize to create sound pockets around the end zones.
"It's something I think we can do here as well, but I don't think we need any artificial help for the Kings fans to be loud and engaged in the game," Miller said.
While Miller isn't exactly expecting to be Major League Baseball's next commissioner when Bud Selig steps down in 2015, he, along with his fellow Kings owners, seem to have some innovative ideas that any team or league could learn from.