Major League Baseball players aren’t typically allowed to use mobile devices during games, but for the next two days, it’s encouraged. In fact, tonight at the Home Run Derby event in New York City, you may even see a player send a tweet from the batter’s box.
MLB and MLB Advanced Media, the organization’s media arm, are teaming up again to make the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game an interactive experience for fans watching at home.
On Monday night, MLB players participating in the Derby will visit a table located near a dugout and live tweet with the hashtag #HRDerby during the exhibition. They can log into their own social accounts on laptops, their own devices or answer questions from fans via MLB’s channels. The MLB team will also be posting six-second Vine videos and snapping pictures throughout the night.
In the past, players had to compete with 60,000 fans in the stadium stands for Wi-Fi and cellular accessibility, which slowed the uploading and posting processes. This year, MLB has added Wi-Fi hotspots for players, allowing them to log in with a private password and access networks quickly.
The All-Star Game on Tuesday night will also have an active social component for the second year, but only players removed from the game will be able to play along.
“Devices will only be allowed on the field for the Derby because it doesn’t have any implications for the league. The winner of the All-Star Game gets home field advantage during the World Series, so we don’t want phones to distract from the task at hand,” MLB spokesperson Matt Bourne told Mashable.
For example, All-Star Game player Matt Kemp from the Dodgers was injured last year during the event, so he was able to visit the social station during the first inning.
This social effort has grown significantly since its launch. When the initiative launched in 2010 for the Home Run Derby, MLB had to work with agents and PR professionals to encourage players to tweet and post to Facebook. Now, many of the players are asking how to get involved and pulling out devices on their own to participate.
“We have seen a real progression with both fan engagement and player participation,” Bourne said. “Fans can feel like a player is taking a break and sits right next to you on the couch.”
Might we see mobile devices used on the field during regular season games in the future? “You never want to say never, but that seems very unlikely,” Bourne said. “It’s not in the forseeable future, that is for sure. It’s all about protecting the competition.”
MLB and MLB Advanced Media are working with broadcasting partners — ESPN for the Home Run Derby and Fox for the All-Star Game — to further blend the TV and online experience.
“The networks will be showing Twitter handles for players and highlighting certain tweets,” he said. “This helps to promote our online efforts on air.”
This is among the many efforts MLB is embracing to encourage fan engagement. At its MLB Fan Cave in downtown Manhattan, nine fans are selected to watch every game at the center, where player stop by to meet them and videos are posted to its social channels.
What do you think of the MLB’s new integration of social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Major League Baseball