Improving fan internet access at Citizens Bank Park will be mission No. 1 for the Phillies’ first-ever vice president in charge of technology initiatives.
Sean Walker, 44, was hired last week as the club’s chief technology officer.
“The next generation of fans have expectations of connectivity. So it’s the first thing we need to address,” Walker said in an interview from Clearwater, Fla., where he is with the team during spring training. “Right now, there’s not fan-facing WiFi, and the cellular infrastructure needs to improve overall. So that will be a big focus.”
Teams are installing senior technology officers to help grow business. The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants each have one, Walker said. “And more are starting to create this kind of role. The Phillies have realized early the need for tech leadership.”
Walker, who until recently was vice president of innovation for the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, said the Phillies’ home stadium is in need of several tech updates to improve fan experience. “Everything from ticketing to the app,” he said. “We want to make sure the Phillies are in the best technological position for the long haul.”
Walker also will oversee the organization’s cybersecurity efforts. “That will involve the protection of our digital assets and fan data,” he said. “That will be a huge emphasis for us.”
How soon will fans see improvements?
“I think it’s a long-term play,” Walker said. “I don’t want to overpromise on the timeline.”
Metrics and analysis, he said, will remain under the purview of the club’s baseball analytics group.
“They’re responsible for metrics. We’ll work with them, but they’ll lead the analytics side,” he said. “That’s their expertise.”
Previously, Walker worked for the National Basketball Association, where he worked in the main office to build tech strategy for the league, the teams, and arenas. At the Professional Golfers’ Association, he was director of enterprise applications and developed and led tech initiatives for the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
The new VP will spend spring training with the team before moving his family to Haddonfield.
Last week, he brought his wife and children to the city to take in a Sixers game. “We got to wear our new Phillies jackets,” he said.
And what excites him most about the new job?
“This is a great opportunity to move to one of America’s major markets — one on the way up in a rebuilding cycle,” Walker said. “I look very much toward being part of that success. A market like Philly is awesome.”