Last night we leaked a cell phone picture of a new policy implemented by team management/ownership of the River City Rascals and it quickly became a viral social media storm of posts, comments, retweets, and more! After a PR nightmare that lasted approximately two hours, management overturned the policy.
Here was the pic:
We heard threats of this last season but never anything in print! As the official scorer last year, I was asked to count foul balls during the game and then to even note what players or coaches I saw toss balls to fans. If you have been to a Rascals game you know that there are a lot of foul balls hit out of play and that is where they lose most of their baseballs. Are they going to start fining for that? Hmm wait, I don’t want to give them any other bad ideas. I brought up an idea last year that if a shortage of balls was that big of a deal then offer something for the ball. Announce over the PA that any fan who returns a baseball can have a free spin on the prize wheel! Most people would do that… for the chance at free tickets, announce an inning on the PA, or do an inning on the radio, etc. Also suggested a sponsor for foul balls to help pay for more balls… could even do a separate sponsor for right and left field. They used to have sponsor for them, White Auto Body.
The part that bugs me the most is ”Please refrain from conversing with fans on this policy” because that basically means… “you players should look like the bad guys when ignoring pleas for a ball, not us who came up with this policy.” That sentence alone is what made me want to share it. The idea of trying to save money or keep as many baseballs as possible to last you through the season is not the bad part of the idea… it’s that this is baseball, it’s family friendly baseball, in a huge baseball town… you don’t take away one of the biggest fan experiences there is and then punish the players or coaches for it. The players don’t make that much money as it is and now you are going to fine them $5 because they made some kid’s day? That $5 will be made up ten fold when that kid wants his or her family to come again and again and again. That kid tells all his friends at school, those parents tell their friends and family what a great atmosphere it is and how big their kid’s eyes were when a professional baseball player tossed them a baseball. Word of mouth is powerful and cheap. You don’t hear or see commercials or get shoutouts on the radio like the Gateway Grizzlies do. Heck, now we don’t even have a radio broadcast. There are people out there that don’t even know the team still plays. There is an amazing staff in place on and off the field that bust their butts, but then you have a GM who has admitted that he “hates baseball”… well there really needs to be nothing else said about him because that sums it all up. The team has lost at least one sponsor because they simply don’t like him. You need somebody with passion, common sense, and a people person. Don’t even get me started on all that, I could go on and on about a guy who doesn’t think a baseball team needs a radio guy, or a website, who manages to lose thousands of likes on the team facebook page….. I pray someday soon a baseball-passionate person or group comes along and buys the team and will utilize the ridiculous amount of potential there is and not be a freaking Scrooge. Christmas Eve in July was the them last night huh? Scrooge for an owner and the Grinch for a GM? Fitting.
Another thing… Wilson A1010 pro baseballs retail for $60 a dozen… which equals $5 a ball. So the players would be fined $5 (full retail price) for a used ball? If the league or team is paying full retail price, there lies another problem. I know this personally as I have sold sporting goods (including baseballs and softballs) for years and typically when a dozen balls retails for around $60, the wholesale price is around $40…. maybe add a little for getting them custom printed with the league logo and such…. but leagues get them even cheaper for buying them up in bulk or having a contract for such a high quantity. Hmm.
Back on topic, the picture was posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram… darn, I forgot to put it on Pinterest. It got a ton of responses! Next thing you know, Darren Rovell tweets this:
It also got the attention of Phil Giubileo, our former Director of Broadcasting from 2002-2004:
He then tweeted Rovell about a trade of a player for some hotel rooms while he was here. The trade was vetoed by the league but it brought the team some publicity back in 2003:
It even prompted somebody to update the team’s page on Wikipedia:
Now you might think any press is good press right like Mike asked (one of Ruffy’s alter egos lol):
In most cases yes, but not here… not when you are alienating your fans. There was a lot of backlash from fans threatening to boycott the team and not come out (ever again). We had to point out that they shouldn’t boycott the team, because it is not the fault of the players, coaches, or any of the staff. They all work very hard every day to make it all work up there. This was the idea of the GM and Owner and they should be contacted by the fans to have their voices heard. Apparently it worked, because just two hours later the GM sent word to the clubhouse that the the policy had been rescinded. The power of social media.
Big thanks to everybody that helped spread the word, especially @FLBproblems who is a MUST follow on twitter:
Hopefully we will have a new owner one day (soon?) who is passionate about the team… or at least a real GM. Maybe he is in his office right now, sitting knee over knee, with his sunglasses on, interviewing for another job via Skype. Fingers crossed.
UPDATE: Darren Rovell posted an article this morning on ESPN.com: http://espn.go.com/m…policy#comments
“We have reversed it, but won’t be discussing it any further at ownership’s request,” said the team’s general manager Dan Dial.
So now they can’t even own up to their mistake? Just flat out incompetence. Maybe if they wouldn’t have fired their PR guy after last season, they could have at least given a reasonable response.
The topic was talked about by Joe DeNiro on http://talkstl.com/ this morning about how ridiculous of a policy it was.
Apparently if you post something on the team’s facebook page referring to this topic or anything similar, it will be deleted. Paul Caputo from http://www.bloggerstobenamedlater.com/ said: ”I made a comment asking if they were going to charge players $5 for handing out ornaments to fans on Christmas in July night. They deleted that and I commented on the fact that they deleted it. Then they deleted that comment too and I gave up.”
Wow social media 101 for a business… you don’t delete comments. Instead, answer them in a professional manner so that other people see your customer service and your answer to another person will be seen by somebody else with the same type of questions. Guess they shouldn’t have fired their volunteer social media guy after last season.
Sports Illustrated: http://tracking.si.c…eague-baseball/
The team’s facebook page was up to 12,500+ likes but after this story circulated they dropped into the low 4000s… a loss of around 8000 likes! That is insane!