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When Baseball Players Become Real People - The Social Media Effect

Brooke Sizemore ‏ @BSIZEMORE29

Maaaaaaaaan this sucks. Broken heart right here. Safe to say I've cried more over baseball than anything in my life

At the risk of stating the obvious, how we communicate in the world has changed in the last twenty years, and whether we like it or not, the way we communicate about baseball has changed right along with it. Gone are the days of bad teenage decisions only remembered by a select group of close friends; these days, with every kid in the entire school holding a camera and a video camera in the palm of his/her hand, bad decisions are recorded and shared instantaneously. And with the creation of large social networks, news literally travels at the push of a button.

In my own lifetime (and I'm only 35), I remember waiting for the morning newspaper to check the A's boxscore if I missed the game the day before. In later years, I remember watching the ticker at the bottom of ESPN to check the score of the game; usually I would get updates on a cycle of every 10 minutes; an eternity if I knew the bases were loaded. I remember the day that the MLB Extra Innings package was announced; the year after I moved out of the Bay Area; I thought it was a present just for me, in response to how much I missed watching A's games. There hasn't been a year since its inception that I haven't purchased the package.

And then, just a few short years later, AN was born. All of a sudden, I had built-in A's friends, from not just all over California, but all over the United States, and even the world. I could talk about the A's 24/7; I could express all of my green-and-gold frustration, and My God, has there been frustration. But I could complain, and people would listen! And then complain back! And we even had one year of celebrating the playoffs together!

And this was all well and good...until we were found.

I remember the first time we were told about an A's player reading AN. I'm not going to lie; the text of everything negative I had ever written on the front page of AN flashed in front of my eyes: Slide!Dammit!Slide!, Swing!Dammit!Swing!, Two-Buck Chuck, Fire!Macha!Now!, But Why Did You Dive Into the Pool, Staplehead?; The I Hate Jim Mecir and Ricardo Rincon Fan Club; Mulder, You're a Head Case; How Many Saves Can You Blow in Japan, Huston?, and that's not even counting my comments. So yes, there was guilt, and I wasn't even sure why. After all, I was writing to an audience of A's fans, wasn't I? Who had to be just as frustrated at the same things that I was, right? Except I wasn't. Apparently, sometimes we write to players, and loved ones of those players. And they read it.

That's not to say I've tempered my writing to my audience, but believe me, there are times when I do pause and think, "But do you think he wants to be known as Two-Buck Chuck?" or "Isn't it kind of mean to nickname someone "DFA", even if they really, really deserve it?" Fine, clearly Charles Thomas and Emil Brown hate me.

But it's gotten worse; baseball players have found Twitter, and all of a sudden, they are not reading us, but allowing us to read them. And in the process, they are becoming human.

Five years ago, in the same situation, I would have been upset that Scott Sizemore suffered a season-ending injury an hour into Spring Training. I would have lamented our thin bench and our lack of replacements at third base, and would have started to look for the second-string. Today, I'm still wondering who is going to play third base, but before I could even get to that feeling, I was crushed for Brooke Sizemore. You know why? Because I know how hard she and Scott had been preparing for the season; how excited she was about his chance at third; how she was studying ratios of pitch speed/release point/arc to improve his at-bats against lefties; how excited she was to start the season. And not because I know her, but because I read Twitter. And that makes me feel like I know her. And instead of making up a nickname for Scott based on his injury, I instead imagined the very real crushing disappointment that clearly was felt in the Sizemore house.

That's different.

Also, I know where Gio Gonzalez is most nights of the week. And his favorite movies, and ice cream flavors. But I digress.

It's a different world; made tremendously smaller by social media. Once, baseball players stood apart from us; they were our idols and gods; always just out of reach...untouchable, unless you happened to sneak in for the occasional autograph. And now? Turn on the computer and you can find out much more than you ever wanted to know about your favorite player.

Did you catch the cover of ESPN the Magazine? Our very own Brandon McCarthy and AN fan favorite, the gorgeous Mrs., both made the cover; helped, I'm sure, by their prolific Twitter usage. If you aren't rooting for that couple, you're made of stone. Creative, smart, witty, funny; the McCarthys are the couple to follow, and everyone feels like they know a little bit about them, even if they haven't met.

So, for you, how is baseball different with the invention of social media? Do you like knowing more about the players' lives, or do you wish they would remain a mystery like in years' past? Who is your favorite player online? Who do you wish would join the online community? And have you ever said anything on AN that you hope a player hasn't read?