It’s game time for Twitter at the ballpark

ballplayerthumb-029So Women’s Pro Soccer is going to start trying Twitter during soccer games. As a way to drum up some attention for the fledgling league, it’s an interesting idea, but soccer may not be the right sport to embrace the technology.

The sport that should? No question. Baseball.

Cover of "Bull Durham"
Cover of Bull Durham

Here’s my suggestion to anyone who wants to listen out there in the minors. At most levels, there is that player who is a little older, a little more savvy, and maybe just maybe, a little less likely to make their way to The Show. Sort of a Crash Davis-type from the movie “Bull Durham”, maybe without the good hair and hip 80s garb. He can read, he can write, and he’s the guy you’d name “Most Likely to Become a Manager” someday. Ideally, he’s a pitcher, so he has some time during games to share his wisdom. Give him a Blackberry or a laptop, sit him in the bullpen or dugout when he’s not pitching, and publicize his Twitter account – both during and between games.

Unlike soccer, where the game is constantly moving, baseball has the perfect tempo for Twitter. You have time in between pitches and in between hitters to discuss and explain strategy. It’s a living, breathing clinic for strategy and technique, and there is an audience that is tech-savvy, slightly nerdy and deeply into the game. We call them fantasy geeks. You could also try to use the platform to engage kids at the ballpark with their parents. Let them ask questions. Give them a chance to interact with their “stars”. Give them a taste of life on the road when you are on a 12-game road trip. It’s a great way to keep involved with a community you won’t see for two weeks.

And the strategy is flexible. One could argue that Facebook might be a better choice – since ballclubs could create a feed on their fan pages, and despite Twitter’s buzz, Facebook still has about 25 times the number of users. Maybe you limit it to a few innings as a way to engage people in the 4th-to-6th innings, when the game starts to drag. Let the radio/TV announcers read some items from the tweetstream, or even field some of the questions themselves (which could be especially great if the announcer is a well-known former player.)

I discussed the WPS idea and a good list of Twitter athletes on NECN this morning:

But let’s go back to baseball. What’s to stop the idea? Well, a few potential obstacles could be:

a) fear – What if the player says something negative? That’s the same fear that every company who embraces social media has to overcome. It’s called transparency, and it causes a little discomfort. But it also builds a great base of fans.

b) unions – Is asking someone to tweet a violation of their baseball contract, even if they volunteer? I have no idea – but I would like to think in my world of rose-colored glasses that we could work around that.

c) control – At some level, taking this on means giving up a little control. You’re working on a third-party platform outside of the MLB/league silo. Get over it. This is about building a new audience – and if you do it right, maybe engaging a young audience more dynamically. It’s something that everyone needs to do in this day and age.

And if you’re a New England team (I’m talking to YOU, Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs and Lowell Spinners), I’m happy to consult.

What do you think, Twitterverse and blogosphere?