Anyone who knows me, knows I love sports. The sport I love most above all else is baseball. Say what you will about America’s pastime (“It’s slow. It’s boring. It’s old-fashioned”), but this game that originated in the late 1800’s always has and always will have a special place in my heart. But, is the game past its prime? Has it lost it’s luster? Can the mystical game of Babe, Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio and Mattingly (my personal favorite) hold its own in this modern social media-driven century? To all the naysayers let me say it can. Baseball has been making moves towards today’s world.
When I was a kid, collecting and trading baseball cards was a way to keep track of your favorite players and what they did during the past season. It was a way for the neighborhood kids to argue over who was the better player (in my case it was Mattingly vs. Hernandez). The downside was that if your favorite player wasn’t interviewed often, you would have no idea how he went about the game you loved so much or what he did in his down time. Even worse, if you didn’t have connections, you could never meet or communicate with your favorite players. In today’s world of Facebook and Twitter, all that has changed.
One company I currently follow on Twitter is ESPN. It recently had a report that the Long Island Ducks (a baseball team in the Independent League) had signed a former relief pitcher that played for both the Mets and the Yankees. Since I live in Long Island, I decided to “follow” the team. The Ducks immediately sent me a direct message thanking me for following them. In doing so they made me feel closer than a fan. It was as if the team actually cared and was grateful for having me. I know it sounds cliché, but the Ducks did make me feel welcome. I regularly get updates from them on current games and how certain players are performing. It’s a great way to be up to date on the latest goings on with the club.
Twitter allows fans to follow their favorite players both past and present. If you are lucky enough, they may follow you back. I had the luck of having the former second baseman and four-time World Series champion Chuck Knoblauch follow me before the start of the current season. I took that opportunity to strike up a conversation with him about how much he missed the game. Any fan of any sport can attest to the special feeling that comes when you talk to one of your favorite athletes. More teams have encouraged their players to start Twitter accounts to give fans that special interaction. Of course, as with all forms of social media, there are restrictions on professional athletes’ and even coaches’ use of social media.
I have used Twitter to gather information during live games I have attended too. I recently went to a game where the team held a contest – if you tweeted your seat location you could get a seat upgrade. I also used Twitter during the game to get stats on players – previously you had to read about them in the next day’s paper or wait till you got home and watched the highlights on the news.
The NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB have all banned players and coaches from tweeting during the game. Of course this didn’t stop Ozzie Guillen (then manager of the Chicago White Sox) from bashing the umpires after he got thrown out of one game back in 2011. This resulted in a hefty fine and suspension for two games. It was also the first time in the history that someone was suspended and/or fine someone for social media during the game. This illegal tweet, however, gained the manager more fans and brought more attention to his team. Goes to show that the old adage of” any press is good press” is still alive and well.
Major League Baseball as a whole uses Twitter to engage fans with trivia contests and up-to-date news and stats on teams. This gives fans like me the opportunity to gain instant access and news to brag about with fellow baseball-loving friends.
The combination of social media and sports gives fans of all ages unprecedented access while allowing for older and newer generations of fans to come together like never before. Since no one wants to be described as “slow and boring” how do you plan on staying relevant during these modern times?
Author: Charley Ruperto