Blogging Away


As part of the Royals efforts to embrace social media, blogs and the like, they invited eight bloggers, tweeters, and internet junkies to Kauffman Stadium for “Blog Your Way to the K” night.

I was fortunate enough to be selected for the event which included access to the pre-game media session, on-field interviews, the post-game session and a peek at the press box (we were situated in the Joe Burke Promotional Suite which is just outside the press box itself).

Back in January, I took part in the Royals first venture into the internet world at FanFest.  I think that gives me a unique perspective to the others who joined me on Tuesday.  Whereas the first event was more of an isolated situation – we were in a conference room with an interview subject and Mike Swanson, VP of communications and broadcasting and David Holtzman, director of media relations – this night had us in the mix with Bob Dutton, Dick Kaegel, Nate Bukaty and other mainstream reporters.

Now, we weren’t in a footrace with them to get to the lineup card first, but we were in the dugout during their questioning of Ned Yost (who doesn’t like having to do media sessions, by the way) and had our own mini-session afterward.

A few things we learned are that Tim Collins will be used in situations where lefties and righties are mixed in the batting order while Everett Teaford will be used more frequently in spots where more than one lefty is up in a row.  There are no plans to stretch Aaron Crow out and, in fact, Yost views him as an eighth inning/setup pitcher right now.

We talked with Jeff Montgomery about the young bullpen, Joakim Soria and his career, as well as the shift from playing to broadcasting.  Following that we mulled around in front of the dugout, observing batting practice and talking about the development of social media and its impact on a baseball organization.  Swanson meets with players every spring and during fall and winter ball to make sure that players know baseball’s policies regarding social media, but also stressing that as an organization, the players are what bring in fans and they want to present players as people.

That can be a difficult balance, because, as other sports have shown, the lure of calling attention to oneself can be great, and you’ll see Chad Ochocino or others getting into trouble with the league for what they tweet.  It’s different than the 1970s when players weren’t covered as in depth and constantly as they are today.  The guiding idea, then, is common sense.  As Swanson said “don’t go out and get your picture taken with the girl at the end of the bar and put it on Facebook.”

Swanson snagged Eric Hosmer after his batting practice session and he embodies the kind of guy the Royals are after, both on the field and as a face of the franchise.  He was excited to be up, raved about Danny Duffy and Everett Teaford and was cordial in discussing the recent attention on his family, especially his mom and her reaction to his first home run.

By popular request, we caught Bruce Chen before he went to shag in the outfield.  His joke of the day:

"I almost got arrested last night.  (Pointing to his arms) I was carrying two guns and a six pack."

Everyone wants Chen on Twitter, and we may have talked him into it.  On one condition.  He wants “ladies tweets” (with pictures).  It’s kind of like ladies’ night, but … on Twitter.  He was also frank about his shoulder and how the Royals don’t want to rush him and make things worse.

And if he had MLB Network at home, he’d never do anything else.  His favorite TV show? How I Met Your Mother.  He’s a Barney Stinson fan.

Bruce Chen. Legen – wait for it – dary.

We headed back up to the suite where Ryan Lefebvre talked with us about his preparation, balancing the road and establishing a routine.  From his standpoint, he doesn’t get involved in the social media world due to time constraints and to keep the saturation levels low.  He stressed the difficult balance between engaging with all fans – casual, hardcore and everything in between.

Shortly before the game began, Dayton Moore dropped in and gave us a long-winded but less guarded response to some issues.

At Digital Digest in January, he employed what Nick Scott coined the “Dayton Moore filibuster” and while brevity isn’t his style, he was forthright about what he could be.  Aaron Stilley of I70 Baseball asked him about hard-slotting in the draft, and while it’s in discussion and Moore himself is in a committee about the issue, he did offer that he sees the merit behind it to maintain control on the money part of the draft and keep control.  He also expressed that he likes to have his own flexibility to pay what bonus he wants to pay.

The Royals draft strategy of the past few years echoes that idea, and a hard-slot system could hamper the kinds of picks that the Royals have made.

Now when those players start to get ready for the majors, he stated that it’s an organizational approach to put the best team on the field and worry about the money side later.  If they’re ready, he wants them to come up.

That’s a contrast to some moves in the past, but as the promotions of Danny Duffy and Eric Hosmer show (not to mention Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman et al), when a player’s performance dictates, they’ll be up.

Of course he wouldn’t name names, but the Royals have a list of 10-12 players they like in the first round with the fifth overall pick.  I guess it’s good to have contingency plans in place.

The Royals lost after some missed opportunities, some good Indians defense and timely Cleveland hitting.  After the game, Ned Yost acknowledged as much, that the Royals were out hit, out pitched and out defensed.  Out played in every way.

During the game, Joel Goldberg came up and talked about Twitter and baseball in general with us.  Of all the “faces” of the Royals organization we saw, he seemed the most relaxed.  Perhaps it was because we’re all internet people and he carries an iPad around with him, or maybe it’s because he has to be ready to pop in with whatever drop in he’s prompted for, but he seemed like the least “on guard” of those we saw.

He also put us on the spot, stating that they’d air something about us during the broadcast.  He asked for a spokesman, and I don’t know if it was proximity or my involvement in the previous event but I volunteered/was volunteered for it.  And hey, it was pretty neat, I’m not going to lie.

At Digital Digest, the Royals chose a group that was exclusively Royals-themed.  Along with me, there was Minda Haas, Brian McGannon, Clint Scoles, Nick Scott, Kirk Harris, and Matt from Royals Review.

On Tuesday, the Royals blogosphere was still well represented, but the Royals invited Royals bloggers as well as bloggers who happen to also be Royals fans.  The diversity resulted in differing approaches.  Personally, I was interested in the game, the players, and what’s going on with the team.  Others were interested in the interplay between the organization and the media and adjusting to new media.

To me, being around other writers, walking in to freshly printed game notes, and seeing a fat, spiral-bound scorebook (on the assumption – like any baseball fan with a level of seriousness – that you’ll use it) was awesome.  I tried to run my audio recorder while in the press room after the game to try to pick up some of the chatter between other writers while we waited for Ned Yost.  It’s really a one of a kind atmosphere.

Maybe down the line the Royals will offer credentials on a more regular basis to bloggers.  They plan on one and maybe two more such events this season.  Other clubs have accelerated their acceptance of internet media as members of the press, so it may take some more baby steps.  We’ll see.

Other takes on Blog Your Way to the K:

Other links (thanks to Sean for finding them):