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Sign Greenpeace’s petition to Save The Arctic and you might Meet Paul McCartney at Outside Lands Festival in SF
Meet Paul McCartney at Outside Lands Festival in SF by scheduling a post about Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign
Meet Paul McCartney at Outside Lands Festival in SF for learning about Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign on The Urgency Network
Meet Paul McCartney at Outside Lands Festival in SF by scheduling a post about Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign
One of the most cherished moments for anyone who has grown up a baseball fan is one day taking your son or daughter to their first game and sharing in your love of the game together at the ballpark. I have many indelible memories that I hold near and dear to my heart of being at games with my family. As I look to have a family of my own someday down the road, I can only hope that my children will share my infatuation with the game. Until then, I’ll continue to look for little ways to make an impact and share the joy of baseball with others. Late last season, I went to enjoy a day game at Dodger Stadium on my own. Of course, you’re never alone when you’re there with others who bleed Dodger Blue. As pitchers played catch and fans waited patiently for autographs prior to the game, I met Scott who was there with his son Ryan. It was Ryan’s first ever trip to a game and I marveled at his knowledge of baseball at such a young age. As the players finished up with catch and were approaching the stands to sign, Scott wondered what they could get signed because they were empty handed. Having an extra ball on me, I gave it to Ryan to keep; thankful that I could have a tiny positive stamp on what I hope will be a cherished day between father and son.
Every little kid that grows up playing baseball dreams of playing in them one day. The All-Star Game. The World Series. These games are the jewels of Major League Baseball’s calendar. They are the pinnacle events where the entire world is watching. These fantasy scenarios that are all played out in backyards and schoolyards across the country always seem to follow the same script. “World Series, Bottom of the 9th, Down 1 with runners in scoring position,” and you’re up to bat. While not everyone is lucky enough to grow up and live out those dreams on the field, fans can wish to one day be in the stands to experience the spectacle of these games. In 2010, those wishes became true for me as I was able to attend the Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, and Game 1 of the World Series, for free thanks to Major League Baseball, along with their sponsors Chevrolet and MasterCard.
From the get-go of the 2010 season, Major League Baseball ramped up their social media efforts across various platforms, most notably on Twitter. During Twitter’s #FollowFriday throughout spring training, MLB regularly tweeted out the handles of baseball fans and followed them back. With sports an inherently social phenomenon, leagues, teams, and sponsors’ joining in on the community was the perfect marriage. Everybody experiences sports around friends and fellow fans, whether in stadia, at the bar, or at home. The conversation spills over as fans proudly display their favorite teams and players on their Facebook pages, add twibbons to their Twitter profile pictures, and interact with fellow fans online. One of the ways that MLB and its clubs generated excitement among fans online was through exclusive giveaways, be it team merchandise or tickets. As the midpoint of the season approached and all eyes on the baseball world started setting their sights on Anaheim for all the festivities surrounding the Midsummer Classic, it was then that I discovered MasterCard’s #pricelesstrivia as well as Chevrolet’s #ChevyASG trivia giveaways. Between the two sponsors, they would be giving away tickets to the All-Star Sunday, Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game by awarding tickets to the first correct respondent to the trivia questions. I was game and ready to put my baseball trivia knowledge to the test, winning both Chevy’s trivia for Home Run Derby tickets and after a clarification on the question, tickets to the All-Star Game thanks to MasterCard. As you could imagine, I was beyond thrilled.
The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game were incredible experiences. While initially viewed as an underwhelming field of participants, the Derby’s competitors dazzled the crowd with a fun competition. Corey Hart of the Milawaukee Brewers belted 13 dingers in the first round to lead the pack, also launching some of the deepest bombs of the entire competition. Ultimately, Boston’s David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Florida’s Hanley Ramirez would outslug the competition on their way to the finals. The battle between the two Dominican stars would prove to be a fun and good natured showdown. Ortiz batted leadoff in the finals, cracking 11 homers and giving his young counterpart a tough act to follow. After Ramirez had reached five, Ortiz put the kid on ice literally, bringing him Gatorade and a towel to cool him off in joking moment. Hanley would not go yard and Big Papi was crowned Derby champion, which would prove Torii Hunter prophetic, as the hometown Angel and unofficial ambassador of the festivities predicted beforehand that his former Minnesota teammate Ortiz would take the crown. It was great to see the players enjoy themselves so much and have a blast with the Derby, with all of the All-Stars watching and laughing along from foul territory, many with their kids in tow. My anticipation was building though as I left Angel Stadium, knowing that I would be back in less than 24 hours for the All-Star Game itself.
Reminiscing back to my childhood, I remembered watching the All-Star Game as a kid in 1989, the last time that it was hosted in Anaheim. Bo Jackson amazed everyone as he led off that game with a home run and I remember dreaming back then that one day I would be lucky enough to attend the All-Star Game. That kid’s dream stayed with me into my adult years and as the day of the game dawned, the excitement carried my brother and I to the park in the early afternoon, waiting anxiously for the gates to open three hours prior the game so that we could get the full experience. Meeting friends out in the left field bleachers, we all watched both the American League and National League take batting practice; both teams come out to the outfield for team pictures, and interviews with some of the game’s brightest stars in the nearby MLB Network tent. With all the pregame festivities concluded, we found our seats and were ready for the game to get down to business. As a fan of baseball and the history of the sport, it was a joy to experience the great exhibition of the Home Run Derby and all of the pregame hoopla, but now as a Dodgers fan, it was time to root for a National League triumph in the contest for the first time since 1996. With the 2010 regular season being dubbed “The Year of the Pitcher,” the All-Star Game furthered the point as pitchers from both squads matched zeros through the first half of the game. Throughout the game, we paid special attention to the four players representing the Dodgers in the game. Outfielder Andre Ethier earned a starting spot through fan balloting and began the game out of place in centerfield, before shifting over to his familiar right field later in the game. The first time All-Star also recorded a base hit. In a historic moment, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo was the first Taiwanese MLB All-Star, although he might choose to forget his performance in the game. Kuo surrendered the American League’s only run, which was unearned, when he allowed a runner to reach and advance as he sailed a throw after fielding a soft grounder well over the first basemen’s head. On television replay, Kuo could be seen with a huge smile after the throwing error, able to poke fun at himself on baseball’s biggest stage. Luckily for Kuo, he would be let off the hook by Atlanta’s Brian McCann, who provided all the offense the NL would need with a bases clearing 3-run double in the 7th inning. The other two Dodger All-Stars would factor heavily in the bottom of the 9th, slamming the door on an AL comeback. With closer Jonathan Broxton on the hill, Chicago’s Marlon Byrd played a shallow fly ball to right on a hop, turning and gunning a throw to shortstop Rafael Furcal, whose incredible stretch helped put out the less than fleet footed David Ortiz who was caught in limbo when the ball dropped in the outfield. The Dodger closer would go on to nail down the save, giving the NL side their first victory in nearly a decade and a half. History was made on the field with the NL win and in the stands, as I was able to put in the books my first (and hopefully not last) All-Star Game attended. Even as I’ve grown and my age now eclipses some of those on the diamond, it was still a magical experience to see baseball’s best in the league’s showcase gala.
As the season progressed, I was able to put my baseball knowledge to use as a fan through more of MasterCard’s #pricelesstrivia, attending local games of both the Angels and the Dodgers. As a sport management master’s graduate and observer of the business side of sport, it was an extremely valuable lesson to see the league, team, and sponsors engage their fans via social media avenues, all the while growing their follower counts, increasing their “likes,” and expanding their communities online and off. MasterCard was one of the key brands to engage their baseball fans, especially as the postseason opened with further trivia for playoff tickets in the respective cities. With my beloved Dodgers long since eliminated, it was entertaining to participate from a far to see if I could name the answers to the various questions about the playoff combatants. As the stage was set for the World Series with the archrival Giants holding home field advantage thanks to the NL win in the All-Star Game, my dad and a coworker suggested that I should try to win tickets to one of the games in San Francisco. Admittedly, I was not all that enthused about the Series after seeing the boys in blue stumble to a sub .500 record but I had to admit, I had always wanted to see a World Series game with my dad. My interest was slightly piqued with Game 1 lining up to be a pitcher’s duel between two of the game’s best, Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. On a whim, I decided to study a little trivia of the clubs in anticipation of MasterCard posting their question. Of course, when the Game 1 question was finally posted, it was about my favorite squad and something every Dodgers fan has deeply engrained in their memory. “What year was Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in the World Series?” 1988! As luck would have it, I was again the first correct respondent. With the tickets on their way, my first phone call was to the person who encouraged this in the first place, my dad. His response upon being told the news that I had won tickets to Game 1 of the World Series was one of amused bewilderment, “Really? Really?! Wow.” He ultimately decided that he would pass on attending, instead giving my brother and I an early Christmas present of the flight to SF and hotel so we could add the World Series to our growing list of baseball adventures.
Arriving in SF, there was electricity in the air thanks to the World Series fever that had swept through the city. Wanting to survey the scene as well as pick up some souvenirs (non-denominational of course), I walked down to the park in the late morning and discovered firsthand how much excitement had built up with the Giants back in the World Series for the first time since 2002. Lines wrapped around the team’s stores with everyone trying to get their hands on World Series merchandise in preparation for that night’s first game. As a thank you to my dad, I picked up a hat I would later give him and a program, and decided to call him during the 30 minute plus wait in line to pay to see if he would like anything else. He said he was fine but suggested the possibility of picking up a ball with the World Series insignia. This would later prove clutch. Returning to the park later in the afternoon with my brother well before the game again so we could take in the full experience, it was evident that the city’s anticipation was skyrocketing as even those without tickets crowded the sidewalks and jammed McCovey Cove’s waterways beyond the outfield fence. The stage was set and we entered AT&T Park, heading directly to the arcade in right field for batting practice. With the Giants having already finished and most of Texas’s heavy hitters wrapping up batting practice, I spied Josh Hamilton signing autographs down by the Rangers bullpen. Having the World Series ball that I picked up at my dad’s suggestion on me, I tried to navigate my way through the throng of people on the arcade down to the field level, fearing that he would long be finished by the time I arrived. To my surprise, the eventual American League MVP was still signing and granting picture requests, taking his time to engage the fans before what had to be one of the biggest games of his career. Only getting a few brief moments to speak to him and thank him as he signed the ball, I was amazed at how humble and genuine he was as he interacted with everyone along the line (During the course of the offseason, I picked up his book, Beyond Belief, which was a great read chronicling his struggles off the field and his comeback to the game.) The electricity continued to build as pregame festivities kicked off with the Giants celebrating their past heroes, with their current heroes about to take the field. Texas did their best to quiet the crowd’s fervor by scoring a run in each of the first two innings. While I came to the game as an impartial observer initially, it was tough to remain that way based on not only the Giants being rivals but also my pregame experience with the eventual AL MVP. Truthfully though, as the Giants scratched out two runs to tie the game against the previously unscathed in the playoffs Lee before eventually knocking him out with three more runs in the 5th inning, it was a sight to behold as AT&T Park came alive. After Lee’s exit, Juan Uribe (who had previously broken my heart with a 9th inning homer off Broxton to beat the Dodgers in September), broke the game open with a 3-run homer, putting the Giants up 8-2 and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Texas would chip away at the lead before the Giants further padded it, and in the top of the 9th, score three more runs as closer Brian Wilson made it interesting as always before squashing the Rangers rally and locking down the save. This sent the Giants faithful roaring into the night and onto the streets of San Francisco celebrating, and hoping for three more victories which would eventually secure the city’s first World Series Championship, ushering in an even bigger party. An incredible park and atmosphere made for another unforgettable adventure for my brother and I, putting a cap for us on a truly “priceless” season of baseball experiences.
As the 2011 season looms near, it will be intriguing to see how the league, teams, and sponsors further improve upon and develop their social media efforts. One of my key takeaways from the September 2010 Sports 2.0 Conference in San Francisco was that the various online avenues and alleyways are only at the tip of the iceberg, with a myriad of possibilities yet to be discovered as more fans connect and engage with their favorite teams and players. Hopefully, more fans have their dreams come true just like I mine did in 2010 because it is something I will never forget, always cherish, and most importantly, be forever grateful.