The 2009 season will be my fifth as a writer for MiLB.com, and during that time I have given my perspective on a wide variety of topics -- most of them having something to do with the wild world of promotions and team operations. But this column, which you have somehow chanced to click upon, represents the first time I have been able to give my Perspective with a capital "P."
This is a brave new world I find myself in, and it may take some time for me to gain my footing on the unfamiliar terrain. But I am grateful for the opportunity, especially because the photo accompanying this column helps perpetuate the myth that I wear a suit on a regular basis (the reality is that I struggle each day to get out of bed and then find a clean T-shirt).
I am also honored to join my colleagues, Jonathan Mayo and Lisa Winston, on the Perspectives roster. They both possess a staggering amount of Minor League wisdom as a result of years of devotion to this vast but often overlooked segment of the professional baseball landscape.
I have reached the fourth paragraph in this, my very first "Perspectives" piece, so I suppose it's high time I provided some. Let me tackle a topic near and dear to my heart -- blogging. Specifically, I would like to advance the notion that the world needs more blogs that deal exclusively with Minor League Baseball.
Sure, a lot of Minor League blogs are already out there amid the untamed internet wilderness. I, for one, update Ben's Biz Blog on a (near) daily basis and am grateful for what appears to be a steadily growing readership. The aforementioned Jonathan Mayo and Lisa Winston maintain blogs, as do assorted front-office members, fans, beat writers and other residents of the Minor League universe.
But here's the thing. It may seem obvious, but it's worth repeating: The affiliated Minor Leagues are HUGE. Sixteen leagues, more than 160 teams and tens of millions of fans are dispersed throughout the country. This means there's room for a wide range of perspectives, which taken together can effectively create a portrait of America through the lens of the national pastime. And that's the best lens there is, right?
This means that YOUR voice is needed. Blogging is a democratic process -- everyone can do it, but the cream rises to the top. So think of a unique Minor League angle you can bring to the masses and get cracking. There are three broad categories into which most Minor League blogs will fit, and all of them could benefit from a greater range of voices.
"Official" Team Blogs. This is something that has really taken off over the past several seasons and will only continue to grow. While content on a team Web site must naturally take a relatively formal and professional tone, a blog can be more conversational and light-hearted while allowing fans a glimpse into the inner workings of a front office. Not only does this help foster a connection between the team and its paying customers, it also serves as a way to share ideas industry-wide.
Plus, there are a lot of different angles teams can take. Broadcasters can provide road trip travelogues, mascots can give their take on whatever hijinks they've been up to, general managers can offer their insight into what it takes to run a team ... and on and on it goes.
The Baseball Life. "Official" blogs usually have an ulterior motive in that they can also be used as marketing tools. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. But blogs also give people within the game a chance to highlight little-known aspects of their profession. In the past, such information usually came to light via books such as George Gmelch's highly recommended oral history "In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People." But now, through blogging, a more do-it-yourself approach is possible.
Speaking for myself, I would regularly read blogs that were written by umpires, scouts, vendors, groundskeepers, clubhouse assistants, concession stand workers, ushers, bus drivers, host families and anyone else living the Minor League life in any capacity. Collectively, these people form the backbone of a thriving industry.
The Fans. Finally, and most importantly, there are the fans. If you follow the Minor Leagues on any level, why not write about it? The common path to take here is to write about the hometown team, but why not narrow the focus even further? Having an original angle is crucial when it comes to establishing a readership and can also make the task of maintaining a blog less daunting.
The possibilities are endless. Write about a favorite player as if he were a superhero, review every fireworks show, provide comprehensive recaps of the nightly mascot race, rate the items at the concession stands, keep a journal of creative fan heckling on Thirsty Thursdays ... anything. The point is to get out there, get writing and do your part to illuminate your chosen sliver of the Minor League landscape.
On my blog, I link to several dozen Minor League blogs of all shapes and sizes. Please get in touch to recommend any that I am missing or to tout your own Minor League projects.
My Perspective is that I would like to read more of yours.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.