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Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people plain just don't get it. But the micro-blogging platform Twitter is here to stay and it is being used more and more by professional athletes for everything from interacting with fans to marketing their brand.
The Rays major league club is well represented in the Twitterverse, led by the unofficial official Rays Twitter Diplomat David Price (DavidPrice14), who has over 73,000 followers and continues to put on a clinic on how to effectively use the medium.
Many other Rays have accounts as well, including 3B Evan Longoria, SS Reid Brignac, OF Desmond Jennings, OF Sam Fuld, SS Sean Rodriguez, and OF Matt Joyce. But there are also quite a few minor league players who use the platform too - and their numbers are increasing every day.
For some it starts out as a sort of a curiosity, but then slowly becomes something more meaningful, like in the case of 18-year-old, right-handed pitcher Jacob Faria.
"Right now it's more of a casual thing," Faria told me in a recent phone interview. "Every once in awhile I'll put something on there about what I'm doing. I like to let people see what I'm doing and that I'm staying busy and working out and stuff."
As a lesser-known prospect who was drafted in the 10th round in 2011, Faria has begun to understand that he can use Twitter to let fans know a little bit more about him and what he is all about.
"It's a little bit of a marketing thing to get my name out there," Faria continued, "just so people can see that I'm not just sitting at home doing nothing. That I'm staying in shape and getting ready for the long haul of the season."
|Reliever Lenny Linsky tweeted this photo of him surfing on his Twitter feed. The shot was taken from a camera mounted on his board. ( @alohalinsky34)|
Shortstop Johnny Eierman, who was also drafted last year, has begun to use Twitter more as well. After initially thinking he wasn't going to use it much, the Missouri native has gotten hooked.
"At first I was just going to tweet every once in awhile, but it becomes addicting, so I'm starting to tweet a little bit more now," Eierman told me on Wednesday. "I'm just gonna roll with it...whatever happens with it is fine."
Eierman would like to use the platform to interact with fans more in the future, and like Faria, use it more to get his name out there to Rays fans.
"Once I hopefully make a name for myself, then I'll interact more with fans," Eierman said. "I think that would be a bunch of fun. Answer questions for them and just interact. None of my friends here really have Twitter, but hopefully this season I'll be able to interact with fans."
Other players like lefty reliever Shay Crawford, were reluctant to try Twitter at first and needed a little coaxing to start an account.
Crawford told me how he got started tweeting:"I got a Twitter last year. My sister had told me I needed to get one for the longest time, but I was always against it. I didn't think I was a Twitter person. I ended up getting it - really I guess - to interact with friends and stuff."
But Crawford has noticed that alert Rays fans have already found his account and are beginning to follow the 41st round 2011 pick."I've noticed that I've picked up some followers over the past few months - Rays fans," Crawford said. "I think that's pretty cool. Hopefully I'll continue to meet people through Twitter, other Rays fans and people that are rooting for me."
Jake Hager, a shortstop who was drafted in the first round and made his professional debut for the Princeton Rays last season, is one of the more active Rays minor leaguers on Twitter. When he isn't posting goofy pictures of himself or of food he is getting ready to devour, he is talking smack with other players in the system like fellow Las Vegas native Jeff Malm.
Hager also uses Twitter to market the protein drink MuscleMilk. The product is made by the company CytoSport and Hager has an endorsement deal with the company.
|Jake Hager's current avatar is an example of how much fun he has with Twitter. He uses the i-Phone application Instagram quite often to tweet creative photos and images. (@JakeHager1)|
But Hager does just more than just goof around and market on Twitter, he has a sincere desire to reach out to fans.
"I think Twitter is awesome," Hager told me at the Rays recent Winter Development Program at Tropicana Field. "It's a great way to interact with people that are following me and support me."
Hager continued, "It's great to pump people up. It's their opportunity to feel special, because I'm very fortunate for what I've been through and I want people to feel special also. It's a great way to do that."
But it isn't just recent draft picks that use Twitter, veteran minor leaguers like catcher/outfielder Stephen Vogt also use it. He takes a slightly more cautious approach to the platform, but still endorses it as a great way to connect with the Rays fanbase.
"As far as Twitter goes, really all you can do is have conversations on there. You really can't get into a lot of trouble on there - at least I hope not," Vogt told me last Christmas Eve shortly after returning from playing in the Venezuelan Winter League."I think you just have to be guarded with what you post and what you share. Think twice before you share something. It goes hand-in-hand with everything we've learned about social media. I think it can be great for - as you said - keeping in touch with fans. I think it's a great tool for that, but you just have to be careful, because there are some people out there who just want to bury you for any little thing. They'll try and find that any way they can."
|Outfielder Drew Vettleson poked some fun at himself when he said that he looked like a Giambi brother in a recent tweet. Apparently he is pretty savvy with photo-editing software too. (@DrewVettleson)|
Whether it is sharing photos of their new watch, telling fans about their workout routine, or tweeting support for their favorite college basketball team, plenty of Rays minor leaguers have indeed embraced Twitter and are using it to share their experiences with the masses.
While there certainly is an element of marketing and self-promotion involved in having a Twitter account, most players realize that their accounts are really more for the fans than themselves. The really smart ones realize that through interactions with their fan base... that they are indeed marketing themselves and that they can have fun while doing it.
As outfielder Mikie Mahtook told me last year when I spoke with him from the Arizona Fall League and asked him if he used Twitter to market himself, "It's fun to interact with the fans. I think it's great to be able to do that. If that's marketing myself, then yeah I enjoy doing that."
And the fans enjoy it too Mikie.
Below is a list (with links to their profiles) of all the Rays' MiLBer's that I know are on Twitter. I may have missed a guy or two, and if I have, please let me know so I can add them to my Rays Minor League Players Twitter List. Players are listed with their 2011 team and the player's with asterisks have protected tweets. I encourage fans to check some of them out and perhaps give them a follow!
C Craig Albernaz---AA Montgomery Biscuits---@CraigAlbernaz
C Nevin Ashley---AAA Durham Bulls---@nevin_ashley
SS Tim Beckham---AAA Durham Bulls---@T_Beckham22
2B Tyler Bortnick---A Charlotte Stone Crabs---@LeenYaMachine16
RHP Jay Buente---AAA Durham Bulls---@jaybuente
C Robinson Chirinos---AAA Durham Bulls---@robinson28ch
RHP Alex Cobb---AAA Durham Bulls---@Acobb53
LHP Shay Crawford---Rookie Princeton Rays---@ShayCrawford87 *
RHP Dane De La Rosa (Dan Della Rocco)---AAA Durham Bulls---@Daner13
C Jake DePew---Rookie Princeton Rays---@JDePew33
OF Deshun Dixon---Rookie Princeton Rays---@DeeBeTTU19
SS Johnny Eierman---Rookie GCL Rays---@johnnyeierman11
RHP Jacob Faria---Rookie GCL Rays---@JDFaria48
RHP Jake Floethe---SS A Hudson Valley Renegades---@jfloethe38
RHP Nate Garcia---Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods---@NateGarcia9 *
LHP Grayson Garvin---DNP 2011 1st Round Pick---RealJohnOlerud
OF Todd Glaesmann---Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods---@toddglaesmann22
3B Tyler Goeddel---DNP 2011 1st Round Pick---@tgoeddel15
RHP Taylor Guerrieri---DNP 2011 1st Round Pick---@TaylorG1201
OF Brandon Guyer---AAA Durham Bulls---@BrandonGuyer
SS Jake Hager---Rookie Princeton Rays---@JakeHager1
OF James Harris---Rookie GCL Rays---@MindOnBaseball
RHP Ian Kendall---Rookie Princeton Rays---@Kendall_1032
RHP Lenny Linsky---Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods---@alohalinsky34
RHP Josh Lueke---Trade 11/27/11 (Seattle Mariners)---@JoshLueke
OF Mikie Mahtook---DNP 2011 1st Round Pick---@MikieMahtook8
1B Jeff Malm---SS A Hudson Valley Renegades---@Jeff_malm
3B Matt Mangini---Minor League Deal 12/6/11 (Seattle Mariners)---@Mangini_Matt
SS Brandon Martin---Rookie GCL Rays---@Bmart_Martymarr
OF Christopher Murrill---A Charlotte Stone Crabs---@C_Murrill
RHP Ryan Reid---AAA Durham Bulls---@RyNReid *
2B Will Rhymes---Minor League Deal 1/19/12 (Detroit Tigers)---@willrhymes
LHP C.J. Riefenhauser---A Charlotte Stone Crabs---@CJRief *
LHP Felipe Rivero---Rookie Princeton Rays---@Rivero43
OF Emeel Salem Jr.---AA Montgomery Biscuits---@e_salem
OF Nick Schwaner---Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods---@nickschwaner
3B Greg Sexton---AA Montgomery Biscuits---@GSSEEXX
RHP Garret Smith---Rookie Princeton Rays---@GSmitty04
LHP Matthew Spann---Rookie Princeton Rays---@MatthewSpann18
OF Steven Tinoco---Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods---@stinoco606
RHP Jake Thompson---A Charlotte Stone Crabs---@J_Thompson36
LHP Alex Torres---AAA Durham Bulls---@Alex21Torres
OF Drew Vettleson---Rookie Princeton Rays---@DrewVettleson
C Stephen Vogt---AAA Durham Bulls---@SVogt1229
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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