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How to use Twitter properly to enhance your baseball experience

Mar 30, 2011, 1:06 PM EDT

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Moshe Mandel had a great post over at The Yankee Analysts yesterday. It’s about Twitter, and he keys on the biggest thing that keeps a lot of baseball fans off it: they misunderstand the point of it all.

As an example, Moshe links to a Time Magazine list of the allegedly most important Twitter accounts for sports fans to follow. With the exception of the first name listed — Old Hoss Radbourn, which is a feed in which one of the more clever people I’ve ever encountered pretends to be the long dead 19th century ace – they’re athletes or celebrities. The thing is, however, if you get on Twitter to follow athletes and celebrities, you’re missing out on everything it has to offer.  As Moshe notes:

Most people see Twitter as a one way street, a tool to follow celebrities, funny people, and Eric Stangel without much interaction. To them, Twitter serves as an RSS feed to the thoughts of the interesting elite, which is why it may seem vapid to spend a lot of time using it. Whenever I tell people that I frequently utilize Twitter, they roll their eyes and ask me some variation of “Why do you care about Celebrity X’s dinner”?

But Twitter has the capability to be so much more, and for many of us it has become an invaluable implement in the sports fan toolbox. It has much greater utility as a social networking device than it does as a celebrity follower, and no greater example can be found in the sports world, where media members, bloggers, and fans have come together to build a vibrant network for discussion and debate about sports.

Though it’s sometimes a wise-cracking vehicle for me, I mostly use Twitter for following baseball. And the key people I follow in Twitter are not athletes.  Rather, they fall into two broad categories: (1) baseball media people who break news; and (2) passionate baseball fans.  The first group are self-explanatory. I want to talk for a minute about the second group. And yes, if you’re already a Twitter addict this is not going to be useful for you. I’m talking primarily here to the people who haven’t yet felt compelled to join up and start tweeting or, at the very least, lurking.

Moshe himself fits the latter description. Sure, he has a blog to promote, but like most bloggers on Twitter, the utility of following him is not to get his latest links. He’s a big time Yankees fan and brings analysis, humor, questions and emotion about his Yankees that enrich the way I think of the team. So do a bunch of other hardcore Yankees fans I know.  And Phillies fans. And Mets fans. And Reds fans. And Brewers fans. And Giants fans. And Red Sox fans and fans of every other team.  They’re just people, ya know, ranging from college students to working stiffs with whom I converse every day and — as soon as the games get going tomorrow — most evenings.

As games are going on, the baseball Twitter people are pointing out stuff that I, as a non-fan of their teams, wouldn’t immediately see.  They’re raising questions and answering them.  They key is the casualness to it and the interactivity.  You’re not reading news or blog posts or stuff like that. You’re having a true conversation with people like you would at a bar or in your living room or something.  Except you can leave abruptly without having to pardon yourself.

As we get going on the 2011 baseball season, I’d encourage those of you who haven’t yet jumped on board the Twitter train to give it a whirl. For baseball purposes, I’d recommend that you first follow the HardballTalk people (Me, Aaron, D.J., Drew, Bob and Matthew). Then take a look at the feeds of the people I’m following. These aren’t all friends (I haven’t met most of them and, indeed, I fight with some of them) and they’re not all G-rated, but most of them bring a constant stream of news, analysis, insight, humor, pathos and plain fun to following baseball. Pick a handful and watch the conversations for a while.

Then just butt in. As long as you’re polite, you’ll be a welcome part of the larger baseball conversation. And your baseball consumption will be much more nutritious as a result.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    I wish Twitter would use something like amazon to help follow people- it tends to lead you down some garden path of Charlie Sheen or other non-entities.
    And if you follow me, you’re on deadly path of destruction.

  2. ThatGuy - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I would seriously love to know who is being the Old Hoss twitter account. It is quite hiliarious.

    • garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      Old Hoss Radbourn is my favorite! Sometimes I have to read it twice to get his sarcasm, but no matter, it’s always good.

  3. pmcenroe - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I absolutely agree, at first I was hesitant to join but it has def. enhanced my baseball experience, perfect examples are Pat Neshek breaking the news of his own trade on twitter and the discussion this morning from Reusse’s anti-sabr column in the Strib today.

    • ThatGuy - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      Did Reusse tell anyone to get off his lawn?

      • pmcenroe - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM

        lol he certainly did

  4. Jonny 5 - Mar 30, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    ” they misunderstand the point of it all.”

    Amen. I guess I better read the link then….

  5. handsfour - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Since the Twitter feed does not thread posts/comments, everything just comes in an endless stream, and it seems difficult to piece together which are related and thus follow an actual conversation. And you may only be getting pieces of the conversation anyway, right? If I follow Craig and see this tweet: “@kevin_reiss Agreed. Great idea” – if I don’t follow Kevin, or even if I do, how am I supposed to know what they’re talking about, and why do I want bits and pieces of a conversation between Craig and Kevin in my feed?

    Facebook, with its threading of posts and comments (and no stupid character limit that causes the language to be mangled), seems much better suited to conversation.

    Or am I missing the point of it all?

    (coming from a casual/intermittent Twitter user – somewhat grudgingly, for work)

    • yankeesgameday - Mar 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      i agree withh you handsfour. Following along can be difficult. Personally, I like to follow the Yankee Media folks: the beat writers and see their comments during games, but for actual “conversations” about teams and games I use a third party program called Tweetdeck.

      Here’s why Tweetdeck rocks (I’m sure others have their favorites, but this is the only one I know how to use being an unfrozen caveman lawyer).

      Using the Yankees as an example, Tweetdeck allows you to open up as many columns as you want and choose which thread you want to see. You can assign a column for tracking conversation is this way: Anyone who puts a # sign infront of the word #yankees, or #nyy, or #questfor28 (which are all twitter based yankee channels) will have their tweet posted not only to their followers, but onto those open channels.

      I have columns for all three AND a #redsox column to follow the enemy. There are #team columns for all the teams so when the Yanks play the Tigers tomorrow, I’ll also have a #tigers column up to talk smack with tiger fans.

      Craig is absolutely right about Twitter. Not only does it help you if you are a blogger to reach an audience, but it really does enrich the game to some degree. If you’re like me and you yell at the screen when your team does something stupid, you can tweet about it and other people are probalby going to agree with you.

      During Spring Training this year I got my very first Re-Tweet and it was like I just won a new car on the Price is Right. Someone thought my comment about Arod was so interesting they shared it with all their friends. Pretty much blew my mind.

      Anyway, that’s my take on how to get some enjoyment and follow an actual throughline of a conversation on Twitter.

      • handsfour - Apr 2, 2011 at 3:26 AM

        yankeesgameday, thanks for the thoughts. I may yet have to give Tweetdeck a try.

  6. sportsdrenched - Mar 30, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    I started using Twitter last summer after repeatadly hearing Sports Updates that started or ended with “via Twitter”.

    No reason I can’t follow on Twitter and then I don’t need the sports updates.

    Since then it’s morphed like Craig described. I follow mostly baseball people. But I have lists for other sports too.

    I also get the “roll eyes” and “oh no you’re one of them” look when people find out I use Twitter. I used to be one of those people.

    But now I really enjoy it.

  7. ngearhart1981 - Mar 30, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Well, crap. Here, I was convinced that Craig WAS Old Hoss Radbourn.
    Dead serious.

  8. dasher521 - Mar 30, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    People look out me as if I’m crazy being on Twitter. When I explain that I follow many of the sportwriters and better local bloggers, they say they didn’t think of that. It’s also great to follow the opposing team and find out what is current with them. I really don’t like to admit it, but in many instances I’m on it at the ballpark.

  9. yjforsuccess - Mar 30, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    I follow primarily for the breaking news. I’m a huge fantasy baseball fan and I’m knee-deep in about 7 leagues. Several league mates always ask me, “How’d you find out before ESPN!?”

    I just smile and shrug.

    Perfect example: It was floating around this morning that Brandon Belt might win the job. I picked him up. They just announced it officially 20 minutes ago. Now, when my friends see my pick up 8 hours ago, they’ll scratch their heads and wonder what the heck just happened.

    And the occasional tweeting with the Marlins players is fun too!

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