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Sports Apps and Smartphones: A Gamechanger for Service Members with Children

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dusty Culpepper
  • 102d Public Affairs Detachment

GULFPORT, MS -- As U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Miller, director of operations with the 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron, stepped aboard a C-12 Huron aircraft in Avon Park, Florida, he immediately took out his iPhone and opened Gamechanger, a baseball scoring app.

The Mississippi Air National Guardsman was at Avon Park to check on almost 20 Airmen in his squadron and brief a general officer on how they were demonstrating Agile Combat Employment (ACE), a relatively new Air Force concept for contingency responses during Southern Strike 2022, a large-scale joint training exercise.

But what was really on his mind was what was going on in the 10 and under United States Specialty Sports Association Double Decker tournament in Oxford, Mississippi, and an 8-year-old coach-pitch game in his hometown of Germantown, Tennessee. Miller also wears other hats; he is the assistant coach of two youth baseball teams, the Memphis Tigers and Germantown Yankees.

His son, Miles, was in the second of two games in the Oxford tournament. The Tigers had beaten the West Kentucky Outlaws 11-3 in the earlier game, and the two-hour flight back to Gulfport, Miss., would have him wondering how this game would fare. The Tigers had taken an early 2-0 lead.

Austin Miller, his other son, the shortstop of the Yankees, was taking on the Germantown A’s after beating the previously unbeaten Germantown Red Sox earlier in the week. Their game was knotted 2-2 at takeoff and finished in a 6-6 tie.

Thousands of service members are in the same boat as Miller. Deployments and even the once-a-month guard drill weekends inevitably keep service members from attending ball games, gym exhibitions, piano recitals, dance competitions, and participating in many other hobbies that their children enjoy. While it never compares to being at these events in person, service members can now rely on technology to keep up with their children’s events in real-time streaming. For example, Miller follows his sons’ baseball games on an app called Gamechanger.

Gamechanger is a scoring app that scores baseball games, soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, and many others. It allows subscribers to follow the action in real-time, pitch by pitch.

Gamechanger even allows for games to be streamed live when hooked into a webcam so that the action can be watched, much like a Facebook live event.

In 2009, Gamechanger started with scoring and streaming softball and baseball. Currently, it boasts of having over 550,000 sports teams registered and scoring over 26 million games, both at the youth, high school, and collegiate levels. The app is free, but there is also an optional premium subscription.
While following Gamechanger, Miller says he can find out more details about the game almost instantly.

"I can watch the game tracker or listen to the computer-generated play-by-play feature to catch every pitch,” Miller said. “This year a mother on the team purchased a camera to video the game that allows me to also watch in real-time and in HD."

With almost everyone having a smartphone in their hand, every at-bat can be recorded, so home runs and big hits that were only imagined can now be experienced.

The game of baseball is in Miller's blood. The 1999 Jackson-Metro Player of the Year pitched at Ole Miss in 2000 and 2001 until an elbow injury ended his playing career. Miller's boys have taken a similar fondness to the game as well as playing whiffle ball and hitting off a tee since they were toddlers.

In the two and a half weeks that he supports Exercise Southern Strike 2022 and the Guard drill weekends, Miller estimates that he will miss upward of 12 events, from baseball games to church recitals.

Miller credits his wife, Kristen, as the “glue that holds the family together,” by being chauffeur, planner, and videographer to all their life events. Along with sons Miles and Austin, the Germantown family has Eva, 9, and Emmy, 3, who all have their own events to attend.

“People are quick to tell us in uniform, ‘thank you for your service,’ but it’s people like my wife who need the thanks,” Miller said. “She shoulders the load of getting people from place to place while I am off on orders.”

Miller said this weekend alone, his wife will shuttle the five family members along with reinforcements from parents and in-laws, between Oxford, Olive Branch, Tupelo, and Germantown and several points in between while handling snack detail and keeping Gatorades cold.

Every month, it gets tougher and tougher to manage their weekend schedule, not to mention homework during the school year, he said. Kristen has been a stay-at-home mom but will go back to work as a teacher in the fall. Miller has worked for the Federal Aviation Administration since 2007 and has been a drill-status Guardsman for nearly 20 years.

April is the Month of the Military Child throughout the Department of Defense. The objective for this month's recognition is to highlight the unique life and challenges of military children and improve their quality of life and help mitigate the demands they experience from all the transitions, such as frequent moves, parental separations for military training, and worrying about their parents when they are absent or deployed.

The advances in technology, such as apps like Gamechanger, have shortened the distances for their absence, in that they can tune in and follow events, many times, in real-time.

In Oxford, the Memphis Tigers finished Saturday’s pool play game with another 11-3 win over Jackson Storm, which put them as the second seed going into Sunday’s bracket play games.

Miles Miller came into pitch, earning the save in Sunday’s first bracket play game against the Mississippi Sixers. He propelled the Tigers to a win and a spot in the championship game, where he got the starting nod on the mound.

Three hundred eighteen miles from Oxford, Miller walked outside of the Joint Operations Center in Gulfport to check the score of the championship game. His son's team, the Tigers, ultimately fell by a score of 5-2 after yielding only three hits as a team. Miles had two hits and two walks on the day, pitched three innings, and played stellar first base.

Coach Miller, his dad, was proud.