Spring Tweeting

By Nate Ogle

I tapped my iPhone’s delete key a few times and erased the half-written tweet. I figured my mom, who had just become one of my followers on Twitter, would not be too happy to read that I was going to sleep instead of finishing the rest of my Spanish homework.

I’m sure she enjoys the parental oversight, but that’s not the reason she made a Twitter account. She uses it to keep up with the Nationals.

It started last summer when my mom, a passionate Nats fan, truly fell in love with D.C.’s baseball team and its players. Over the course of the season, she began to get to know the players and their individual personalities; they became her guys. When the season ended prematurely in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, her passion for the Nats had not been satisfied and she was going to have to wait five long months before her Nats would return to the field.

Within a few days of the decisive loss, she and I decided that we would go down to Florida for spring training in March. We were then only four months away from Nats baseball. I had basketball and football to tide me over until then, but she still needed something to help pass the time. In Twitter, she found just what she was looking for.

Twitter truly shines during the six-month offseason while the press is busy covering winter sports such as football and basketball. During the winter, baseball players quietly go about their lives as they prepare for the coming season. They have more free time; they also have a motive to take charge in reporting their own lives to their fans. To do so, many take to Twitter. The social networking entity has become popular due to its inherent simplicity, founded upon the basic premise of: “What do you want to broadcast right now?”

As a result, people all across the world, baseball players included, find themselves habitually sharing all sorts of musings with their followers.

Throughout the offseason, my mom kept up with the Nats on Twitter as they chronicled their lives in 140 characters or less. Thanks to her eagerness to share, I was also essentially keeping up with the Nats on Twitter. Every day she hopped on her feed to see what new clothes Gio is trying on, to hear about Ian Desmond’s fishing trip, or to read the guys’ fond farewells to Michael Morse. Our players were still out there, still having fun, and still being the Nats. Thanks to Twitter, they could interact with us easily and directly.

By the time spring training got underway in February, we had already begun to feel a more personal connection to the players thanks to Twitter. Spring training presents a wonderful balance between baseball and the offseason in the sense that the players are playing, the reporters are reporting, and the fans are watching, but everyone is still able to relax and enjoy themselves. It is an opportunity for fans to get up close and mingle with their favorite players.

The night we touched down in Florida, Ian Desmond tweeted: “Davey can’t play today was up all night watching the #wbc. How you think that would go?”

To me it sounded just like a child trying to persuade a parent to let them skip church on a Sunday morning. It was not going to happen, but could I relate. ‬The next afternoon at the ballpark, I high-fived none other than Ian Desmond, who was of course playing. The direct nature of a tweet allowed Desmond to make an endearing joke directly to his followers, making it feel like we had become a part of a little Nationals family.

Later that afternoon a young prospect named Zach Walters came by our seats. When he was about 10 feet away my mom blurted out something along the lines of “I follow you on Twitter Zach!”

A sheepish grin materialized on his face as he responded, “Uh oh, well don’t listen to everything I say on there.”

Walters ended up having several great games while we were at spring training, including a pair of home runs. What I remember most about Walters was his accessibility. Not only did my mom and I speak to him on the field, he also responded to two messages my mom tweeted him.

Our experiences with Walters and Desmond are examples of how Twitter enriched our spring training experience by offering us an additional layer of interaction to the players not usually possible during the season. Not only were we with them physically at the stadium, we were also with them wherever they had an internet connection.