2011 BASEBALL PREVIEW Pros have an opportunity to interact directly with their fans, 140 characters or fewer at a time.
The old model for fan-player interaction was pretty one-sided. Your heroes were typically behind some sort of figurative wall -- your access to them limited by what you saw on TV or read in the newspaper ... or gleaned from a few seconds during an autograph session, if you were really lucky.
In that sense, then, Twitter is a game-changer.
Plenty of Twins have embraced the 140-characters-at-a-time social networking site, and fans have flocked to follow them.
"A lot of athletes have publicists, and I think in the beginning fans were surprised and happy that it was actually me talking to them," said Twins outfielder Denard Span (@thisisdspan on Twitter), who joined the site two years ago and now has nearly 20,000 people following his tweets. "They felt like they were texting me or something like that. Just hearing those things in the beginning, that made me feel good."
Span spends down time answering questions from fans via Twitter or offering observations like one March 21, when he professed a love of bus trips because they give him time to think about life.
Danny Valencia (@dannyvalencia19), meanwhile, tweeted: "Headed home to play against the Marlins, long 3 hour bus ride. I wish I could teleport!!!" and also sent a tweet directed at Span questioning his bus logic.
That information isn't likely to make it into a daily media report about either player, but it does offer some insight into their overall personalities.
"I don't answer everybody's questions, but I try to within reason," Span said. "I try to talk to people, so they can get to know me in my own words."
Same goes for Michael Cuddyer (@mcuddy5), who was closing in on 15,000 followers in late March.
"A lot of fans love talking and getting that connection with a player," he said. "I get about 10, 15, 30 questions a night, and if I think it's a good question, I'll answer it. I'm not the type who says I just came from a movie, or I'm at this place to eat dinner."
Valencia tweeted everything and anything when he joined a couple of months ago, though he has slowed his pace lately. Young outfielder Ben Revere (@BenRevere9) is another of the organization's most active Twitter users, while reliever Pat Neshek (@PatNeshek), who recently joined the Padres, is credited with being a trailblazer among Twins.
Players said they believe common sense rules the day when it comes to what to post. Span caught some heat with a couple of tweets -- one of which compared leaving for spring training to going to Iraq -- which made him realize what an impact his words can have.
"I'm on there to have fun and joke and have a good time," Span said of his current intent.
Meanwhile, Cuddyer promises not to tweet any more pictures of his foot after a wart-removal procedure.
"I tweeted that picture just to get that out of the way," he said, "and I've stayed away from it ever since."
In that interaction scenario, everyone wins.
Staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this report.
|Miami - D. Phelps||6:05 PM|
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