These days, video is far more likely to facilitate stardom. The combination of user-friendly technology and instant distribution via the Internet has thoroughly democratized this once-exclusive medium, giving just about anyone the ability to see and be seen.
Minor League Baseball teams have, of course, taken notice.
What follows is a small sampling of the types of videos that are being produced throughout the Minor Leagues, from weekly comedy series to one-off parodies to player profiles to cringe-inducing mascot bloopers. Cumulatively, they illustrate the ways video can be used to promote -- and enhance -- the Minor League Baseball experience.
So let's go to the tape.
The offseason is a trying time for many ballclubs, as fans often adopt an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality when it comes to the national pastime. So how can teams keep themselves in the public eye?
The Fresno Grizzlies' solution to this conundrum was to create "I Hate The Offseason," a weekly Web series that debuted in October 2008. Each episode revolves around Parker, an affable bear mascot who passes the winter months by involving himself in wacky misadventures.
The Grizzlies' success with "I Hate the Offseason" has inspired other teams to follow suit. Last month, the Omaha Royals began running a series of their own, one with the more ambivalent title of "My Offseason Life is Average." These videos, influenced by Jack Handey's "Deep Thoughts," take an absurdist approach.Speaking in an emotionless monotone, mascot Casey the Lion muses on everything from the causes of Tyrannosaurus Rex aggression to the cost of hiring Morgan Freeman to do voiceover narration.
The Everett AquaSox have gone in a different direction with their Internet series, which combats offseason drudgery by focusing on the season that was. The club unveils a new installment of "Meet the AquaSox" on their Web site each week, giving fans a chance to see another side of their favorite players. The segments originally were shown during the season at Everett's Memorial Stadium as part of the pregame and between-inning entertainment.
The videos often resulted in a popularity boost for the featured players.
"We asked [pitcher] Chris Kirkland what his favorite music was and he burst into song," said Crawford. "That automatically made him a fan favorite."
Another way for teams to distinguish themselves via video is by producing parodies. Because as Weird Al Yankovic has so ably proven, people respond to thoughtfully written, well-produced lampoons of popular hits.
"We were just trying to get something out there as far as the video world goes," explained Renegades director of promotions Andrew Willmert. "The original idea came from one of our food and beverage guys, and as he was sitting there singing it, I said that I'd like to rewrite the whole song that way. It was a joke at first, but we ended up doing it. ... We transformed one of our skyboxes into a recording studio and recorded the song on Garage Band."
Perhaps the Minors' leading producer of parody videos is the Greenville Drive, whose efforts are led by director of game-day entertainment Jeremiah Dew (aka "JDew"). The club first made waves with "My Umps" (a parody of the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps") and most recently turned Asher Roth's "I Love College" into "I Love Baseball."
"They're fun to do, people like them and it gets the point across that going to a Drive game is all about having a good time," JDew said. "People always ask us on Facebook and Twitter, 'When's the next video coming out? Can I be in it?'"
Perhaps the Drive's most notable parody was their take on T.I.'s "Whatever You Like." The video, which encouraged fans to take a trolley to the stadium, co-starred Greenville mayor Knox White.
"After we recorded the song, we called up the mayor and asked him to be in the video," said JDew. "He said yes, but I don't think he was paying much attention. But two weeks later, we got him out to the shoot and dressed him up in chains, shades and a hat. ... After we released the video, the big local television stations really picked up on it and we got 3,500 hits [on YouTube] in five hours."
Sometimes the videos that generate the most publicity are those that weren't planned, but were simply a result of having the camera rolling at the right time. That certainly was the case for the Binghamton Mets this past season, as a comical (and painful) mascot mishap became an Internet sensation. After a B-Mets' grand slam, Bingo the Bee did a celebratory dance that ended with an ill-advised attempt to jump over a fence. Bingo's misstep has since been viewed on YouTube nearly a quarter million times.
"Once it was posted on 'Hot Clicks,' that following Monday it caught fire on the Internet. The link was posted and got thousands of hits from TMZ.com, ESPN.com, deadspin.com, a spanish blog site called Marcawas and I was contacted via YouTube by ESPN Sports Nation, who asked if they could use the clip on their show. The hype built up pretty heavily for a month or so and kept building pretty well until early August."
The B-Mets weren't the only team to get some publicity as a result of a spontaneous moment. The Palm Beach Cardinals' clip of Casey Mulligan doing the "Thriller" dance during a rain delay is available on YouTube, where it has been viewed more than 80,000 times. Similarly, the Lakewood BlueClaws can be seen leading the crowd in the "YMCA" during a rain delay. And while it hasn't received many views yet, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans' video of canine mascot Deuce having an on-field "accident" is comedy gold. Those who appreciate lowbrow humor will certainly come away entertained.
Whatever the specific approach, it is clear that videos will continue to be used as valuable promotional tools.
"In effect, we're all trying to tell the same story, which is, 'This is what the ballpark experience is like,'" Fresno's Carter said. "And videos are a great way to tell that story."