How to use Twitter properly to enhance your baseball experience

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Moshe Mandel had a great post over at The Yankee Analysts yesterday. It’s about Twitter, and he keys on the biggest thing that keeps a lot of baseball fans off it: they misunderstand the point of it all.

As an example, Moshe links to a Time Magazine list of the allegedly most important Twitter accounts for sports fans to follow. With the exception of the first name listed — Old Hoss Radbourn, which is a feed in which one of the more clever people I’ve ever encountered pretends to be the long dead 19th century ace — they’re athletes or celebrities. The thing is, however, if you get on Twitter to follow athletes and celebrities, you’re missing out on everything it has to offer.  As Moshe notes:

Most people see Twitter as a one way street, a tool to follow celebrities, funny people, and Eric Stangel without much interaction. To them, Twitter serves as an RSS feed to the thoughts of the interesting elite, which is why it may seem vapid to spend a lot of time using it. Whenever I tell people that I frequently utilize Twitter, they roll their eyes and ask me some variation of “Why do you care about Celebrity X’s dinner”?

But Twitter has the capability to be so much more, and for many of us it has become an invaluable implement in the sports fan toolbox. It has much greater utility as a social networking device than it does as a celebrity follower, and no greater example can be found in the sports world, where media members, bloggers, and fans have come together to build a vibrant network for discussion and debate about sports.

Though it’s sometimes a wise-cracking vehicle for me, I mostly use Twitter for following baseball. And the key people I follow in Twitter are not athletes.  Rather, they fall into two broad categories: (1) baseball media people who break news; and (2) passionate baseball fans.  The first group are self-explanatory. I want to talk for a minute about the second group. And yes, if you’re already a Twitter addict this is not going to be useful for you. I’m talking primarily here to the people who haven’t yet felt compelled to join up and start tweeting or, at the very least, lurking.

Moshe himself fits the latter description. Sure, he has a blog to promote, but like most bloggers on Twitter, the utility of following him is not to get his latest links. He’s a big time Yankees fan and brings analysis, humor, questions and emotion about his Yankees that enrich the way I think of the team. So do a bunch of other hardcore Yankees fans I know.  And Phillies fans. And Mets fans. And Reds fans. And Brewers fans. And Giants fans. And Red Sox fans and fans of every other team.  They’re just people, ya know, ranging from college students to working stiffs with whom I converse every day and — as soon as the games get going tomorrow — most evenings.

As games are going on, the baseball Twitter people are pointing out stuff that I, as a non-fan of their teams, wouldn’t immediately see.  They’re raising questions and answering them.  They key is the casualness to it and the interactivity.  You’re not reading news or blog posts or stuff like that. You’re having a true conversation with people like you would at a bar or in your living room or something.  Except you can leave abruptly without having to pardon yourself.

As we get going on the 2011 baseball season, I’d encourage those of you who haven’t yet jumped on board the Twitter train to give it a whirl. For baseball purposes, I’d recommend that you first follow the HardballTalk people (Me, Aaron, D.J., Drew, Bob and Matthew). Then take a look at the feeds of the people I’m following. These aren’t all friends (I haven’t met most of them and, indeed, I fight with some of them) and they’re not all G-rated, but most of them bring a constant stream of news, analysis, insight, humor, pathos and plain fun to following baseball. Pick a handful and watch the conversations for a while.

Then just butt in. As long as you’re polite, you’ll be a welcome part of the larger baseball conversation. And your baseball consumption will be much more nutritious as a result.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.