Social media connects fans, players alike
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com | 01/06/12 10:00 AM EST
Giants outfielder Cody Ross joined Twitter on Dec. 23, 2011, and in a matter of days had more than 1,000 followers. That same day, he was sending a tweet across the country to fellow Capricorn Hanley Ramirez, with whom he shares a birthday.
"Happy Birthday To Me!!!! Oh, and you! @HanleyRamirez," Ross tweeted from his handle, @IamCodyRoss. And then, later: "What did you get for your birthday? @HanleyRamirez."
Ramirez, who hasn't tweeted since the week before Ross reached out to him, didn't respond. But such interaction is an indication of just how ingrained social media has become in Major League Baseball.
Every team, along with the league itself and its various arms, engages its fans through Twitter and Facebook. Players interact with fans, answering questions and offering baseball lovers more of a glimpse into their favorite athletes' world than what they'd see from the left-field bleachers.
Regional television contracts can only stretch so far and the common fan will only travel such a distance to see teams play, but the Internet allows players to reach out to fans with whom they perhaps never would have interacted.
To some players, it comes as a shock at how engaged fans want to be.
"Honestly, my plan was to do it for three days, get the 1,000 and then not go on it again," Phillies pitcher Michael Stutes said upon racking up 3,800 Twitter followers after one day. "The response I got in the first couple days [was incredible]. It's like, 'Oh, maybe I'll keep this.' So I kept going."
The phenomenon may also have helped to introduce the baseball world to one of its next superstars.
When "Yoenis Cespedes: The Showcase" found its way to YouTube, few had heard of the Cuban ballplayer. Now, many who are well versed in the game are aware of the 26-year-old, who could be one of baseball's future stars.
"The video was to let people know who the player is," said Cespedes' advisor, Edgar Mercedes. "He's a little bit of a mystery if you do not follow international baseball. The only people that knew about him were international scouts, but he's been on the scene for a long time. The idea behind the video was to let people know his work ethic and how hard he is and has been working."
The video, which is essentially a baseball workout condensed into a 20-minute film, currently has more than 102,000 views. And Cespedes has the attention of more than a few clubs around baseball.
"Cespedes is a very talented guy, and the team that gets him will be awfully happy," said Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley, who also signed Cuban native Aroldis Chapman. "He can do a lot of things and he's seen a lot of quality competition."
Cespedes' exposure in America was swift, and social media and the web had a great deal to do with it. Over the years, it's allowed fans from other parts of the world to be a closer part of baseball in America, and for fans in the United States to see baseball elsewhere.
Another potential future star who made waves on the social media-sphere this offseason was Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, who could be the next to make a splash in Major League Baseball after coming over from Japan.
"I think Japanese players get better and better every year in this country, and I think in years to come there's going to be more Japanese players that come to the States and play," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Japanese agent Don Nomura even took to Twitter to say when the Nippon-Ham Fighters would announce which MLB club had won the bid for the young hurler.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, too, used Twitter as a platform to publicly announce his contract extension when he tweeted on Dec. 17, "I see you all know by now. Gotta deal with me for 3 (4) more years!"
And, though he wasn't going too far -- from the Rangers to the division rival Angels -- pitcher C.J. Wilson embraced the modern age when he thanked Texas fans for their support over the years after signing with the Halos this winter.