In the continuing saga of how Twitter and Facebook has provided me with some interesting experiences, the latest example happened on Friday night at Progressive Field - home of the Cleveland Indians.
After being gone for two weeks with the Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team on the Cougars' postseason run all the way to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round, it was time for a fun family activity. My wife, Carla, and daughters Ashley and Kylie loaded up in the van after work and we headed to Cleveland even though it was already raining in Mount Vernon and the forecast did not look all that great for Cleveland for the rest of the evening. I wasn't sure that we would get the game in, but everyone wanted to go and I figured we would find something fun to do regardless.
As we got within a few miles of the stadium, my cell phone rang. It was Rob Campbell from the Indians' PR department. Rob is a recent grad and former baseball player from Northwestern who landed his job with the Indians after seeing a posting by Digital Royalty's Amy Martin. Among other things, Rob is responsible for the Indians' @tribetalk Twitter account as well as for filling the seats in the Indians' Social Deck.
As I talked to Rob on the phone, he informed me that due to some cancellations by other people that there would be room for not only me but my whole family to sit in the special section adjacent to the bleachers on the leftfield home run porch. After making sure that he knew what he might be in for with an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old in the section, he gratiously agreed to meet us at the media gate to get us in.
We arrived and were met right away by Rob, who took us to our seats. The girls were excited to see that we were in the front row and that not only could we watch the game live, but that there was a TV right in front of us too where we could catch replays. The Social Deck consists of two rows of five seats each with wireless internet access. After a quick trip to the souvenir stand to pick up an Indians'-themed stuffed monkey that they each had to have, we settled in for an exciting interleague battle between intra-state rivals.
As the game went on, it was also fun to meet the other people in the Social Deck. There was Terry from Indians Prospect Insider and his nephew, Joe, and also Lisa (@lzone) and Kelly (@kmcglumphy) - two Cleveland area residents and PR pros. We all enjoyed the game including a beautiful rainbow mid-way through. In the eighth inning with the rain coming down a little harder, we moved in behind home plate under the overhang to seats that Rob had secured for us just in case of inclement weather and we finished the game there.
Once the game was over, we had one last highlight when Rob took all of us down on the field and then into the visitor's dugout to watch the postgame fireworks show. We each had a photo taken on the field by an Indians' photographer to commemorate the evening and then a great fireworks show ensued. One of the pictures that Rob took of the evening ended up getting retweeted by the MLB twitter account (@MLB) and my family was famous. :)
As we headed home and even now as I reflect back on the evening, I know that my family was able to have a night that not all that many people get to experience. My daughters have told people non-stop about the game and experience and they think that Rob is their new best friend because he's the kind of guy that once you meet you feel like you've known him forever. We also had numerous people following the game through us on both Twitter and Facebook and that's exactly what the Social Deck is set up to do. (You can check out all of our photos from the night here.)
Rob took great care of us and is really good at what he does. He is working hard to connect Tribe fans and generate as much excitement as possible about a team that to put it bluntly is struggling out of the gate this year. Rob and the rest of the PR and marketing staff of the Indians have a tough job because in today's economy it is really hard to get people to come out to games when the product on the field may not be performing as well as the fans would like. And, we all know that the Indians will never be able to spend money on players the way that teams like the Yankees do.
However, one thing that Rob and his counterparts have going for them is the fact that Tribe fans are some of the most loyal supporters out there. Yes, they want their team to win on the field. But, year after year, they continue to support the team - hoping that this will be THE season. And, through efforts like the Social Deck, the Indians are on the cutting edge in all of Major Leage Baseball at finding ways to connect the fans with their team. Now, here's hoping that the on-the-field product will continue to improve to match the hard work and promotional efforts of people like Rob.
To read Terry's take on the experience on his site, check out his story.
If you would like more information about the Indians Social Deck, follow @tribetalk on Twitter and drop Rob a note.