Passbook mobile ticketing expanding to 13 MLB ballparks this season

For the 2013 baseball season, Major League Baseball is more than tripling the number of stadiums that will accept mobile tickets via Apple’s Passbook(s AAPL) app. This year there will be 13 stadiums that will enable paperless ticketing via Passbook, MLB announced at a fan event in New York City Tuesday night. That’s up from four last season.

The teams that will start accepting Passbook tickets for the first time are the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. The New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals, which began accepting Passbook last September, will again offer the service this season. MLB says there are three more teams that will enable iOS tickets this season, but that are not yet ready to make an official announcement.

MLB PassbookMLB was among Apple’s first launch partners for Passbook, which went live with iOS 6 when it launched in September. That surely wasn’t a surprise to baseball fans who know MLB as the most tech-savvy league of all major professional sports. Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media Office, which is the digital arm of the league, responsible for, MLB.TV and the At Bat apps, is run by CEO Bob Bowman — who’s speaking at paidContent Live 2013 in April. Bowman has made MLB a frequent and early partner of Apple when it’s come to mobile tech.

Last week, MLB debuted the 2013 edition of its At Bat app for Android and iOS, which included more live, archive and embedded video content, and a new deal to include free game audio access.

He stays ahead of the tech curve by trying to anticipate what the next generation of fans — the kind that grew up with ubiquitous internet access — will want in a mobile experience and how they prefer to interact with their team. The smartphone “is the first screen, not second screen” for them, he told me Tuesday. That means a mobile offering “has to have everything. [The app] has to be slick. If it isn’t hip, cool and easy to use, [fans] are not going to use it.” That’s why “everything we write and plan this is on the first screen.”

That includes using your phone instead of a piece of paper to get into a game, as well as using it to sort stats or watch classic video. But MLB’s mobile efforts are not all iOS all the time. MLB At Bat is also on Android,(s GOOG) a platform Bowman said is growing rapidly for MLB.

Right now, he said, iOS users account for 70 percent of the free version of At Bat. But that’s “shrinking every day” as Android has grown — he says thanks to Samsung’s good mobile hardware and its growing cool factor, as well as the Google Play store being better curated by Google.

However, when it comes to users that pay for At Bat — which is $20 per season — 85 percent are still iOS. But that’s changing too, he said. “Slowly.”