Originally published on Kings of Kauffman:
Clearly, there had been a mistake made.
Last week, I got a call from the Kansas City Royals requesting my presence (actually, my faux personality, @fakenedyost had) at the first “Blog Your Way To The K” Night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals had done something similar during the Winter Fan Fest and were represented by such esteemed bloggers as @KCYeti and Nick Scott at Royals Authority. These are intelligent Royals bloggers who bring much to the table. Fake Ned’s claim to fame is that he writes a lot of jokes about how slow Billy Butler is and how Ron Gardenhire smells like old potatoes. Real high-brow stuff.
Be that as it may, as a famed Kung Fu movie was once titled, “When Fortune Smiles,” I guess you have to go for it. Even though I’m pretty sure the only reason I was selected was to give “Real Ned” and opportunity to punch “Fake Ned” in the face, you don’t say no to that type of chance – no matter how painful.
The Royals had just come off of a less than stellar road trip. It saw the first two homers by Eric Hosmer in the House that Ruth Built. It saw a schizophrenic performance by Sean O’Sullivan.
And then the night before they were absolutely destroyed by the Cleveland Indians 19-1. It saw Vin Mazzaro cement his status as the “worst Vin” behind VIN Numbers and Vin Diesel. And here come the “Bloggers.”
It was billed as a learning experience. The eight of us represented a cross-section of the “Blogosphere” (which can’t possibly be a real word.) Several “seamhead” blogs were represented, several “citizen journalist” sites, a couple of teachers who blogged — and me. A comedy twitter account.
We were given mostly the same level of access as a traditional Press credential. We were given access to interview (Real) Ned Yost, Eric Hosmer, Bruce Chen, Dayton Moore and Media Director Mike Swanson. It wasn’t your normal “Field Pass.” These folks meant for us to have a “real” press experience. We got to ask real questions. There were very few limitations on what expectations were on us. And it was amazing.
I got the feeling, however, that a major part of “Blogger Night” was a science experiment by the Media Relations folks at the Royals. They were just as curious about us as we were of them. As Mike Swanson explained, the community of fans needs to be represented. And they’re not stupid. Even bad buzz is still buzz. Dayton Moore explained that in order for David Glass to not enter the poor house that they need to be drawing well over 2 million fans. In order to do that, they need buzz. What better way than to invite people with their own following to a Blogger Night. It’s an untapped goldmine.
Their mission was to humanize the Royals organization to the eight of us. And, in turn, hope that we help communicate that message. These people look bigger than life to us on television, sports radio. Hell, even their video screen at Kauffman Stadium is 2 jagillion feet tall. But these are folks “just like you and me,” Swanson said.
So, my questions were geared towards how each person reacts to the 24/7/365 media circus. You get interviewed before the game, then right after the game, then do media the next day. “It’s not my favorite thing to do,” (Real) Ned Yost told me. “but it’s part of the job. I try to do it in a professional manner. Sometimes I’m a little rough, a little gruff. But I’m working at it. One of my weaknesses is that I don’t like talking about the past. But it’s part of the job and something that I continue to stay focused on.”
I was also curious at how Yost throttles the volume of feedback (mostly negative) that is available on Facebook, Twitter and Blog sites. “I don’t read any of it.” Classic Ned.
“[Fixing the Royals] is the greatest challenge in all of sports.” Dayton Moore told us. “I like ‘that’s what she said’ jokes” Bruce Chen told us. “You [the fans] are the most important part of baseball” Mike Swanson told us. These are real people. Their efforts to humanize what the game of baseball is to me certainly worked.
The other subtext of the evening should certainly also be a wake-up call to “Mainstream Media.” There was a very clear, albeit subtle, message to us that Internet Media is coming. Full press access to Bloggers is coming. Print, radio and TV Media should be aware that the Royals are looking for other avenues of getting their message out. I don’t look for Fake Ned to get a full press credential next year and sit next to the likes of Dick Kaegel and Bob Dutton. But the Tweet may end up being mightier than the pen in the not too distant future.
We got to peek “behind the curtain” and see how the Press covers the Royals. We had a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Joe Burke’s and Joe Posnanski’s of the world. It was an experience I’ll never forget. But we also got to be seen as innovators of what is to come. People consume baseball in ways no one had ever intended and those mediums are not newspapers, radio or television. They are digital.
Fake Ned spent the evening watching a woeful performance from the Royals. After their 19-1 butt kicking the night before, the team played flat. And the Indians looked like world beaters, winning 7-3. This allowed him to tweet all types of observations – maybe even a few of them were funny. But Fake Ned ended up doing what Fake Ned does best (and what the Royals likely intended) — generate buzz.