The social networking site, on which users can quickly send and read brief messages ("tweets"), has grown at a rapid rate since its 2006 inception. The firm eMarketer reports that more than 20 million Americans now have Twitter accounts, a number that should reach close to 30 million by 2013.
Twitter's increasing popularity is reflected in the number of Minor League Baseball players who are active on the site. For ballplayers, it's an easy and effective way to keep in touch with former (and perhaps future) teammates, which can be difficult given the transient and unpredictable lives that professional athletes lead. And Twitter can also be used as a way to connect with fans, giving them a sense of a person inside the uniform.
In order to facilitate these sorts of connections, MiLB.com has created a comprehensive (but by no means definitive) list of Minor League players on Twitter. What follows is a sampling of the individuals to be found therein. Feel free to chime in with your favorite follows -- in the comments, on Facebook, and, of course, on our Twitter.
The Week That Was
Franklin gets five hits
Former first-round pick Nick Franklin went 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs vs. Modesto on Wednesday.
23 innings, three runs
Jose Duarte's walk-off single in the 23rd inning gave Jupiter a 2-1 win over Clearwater on Monday night.
Cox's Double-A debut
Former first-round pick Zack Cox was 2-for-3 with an RBI in his debut with Springfield on Wednesday.
Victorino at affiliates
Shane Victorino will be rehabbing with Phils affiliates Lakewood and Reading starting on Saturday.
IL powers lock horns
Zach McAllister and IL West leader Columbus will visit Durham as the Bulls battle for first place in the IL South.
Webb with Frisco
Rangers right-hander Brandon Webb will take the mound for Frisco Monday in a rehab start against Tulsa.
The heavy hitters
@TheGarfoose (Dirk Hayhurst, Pitcher, Durham Bulls) -- Dirk Hayhurst, best-selling author of the Minor League memoir The Bullpen Gospels, was an early and enthusiastic user of Twitter. He currently has more than 8,500 followers, although they are not following him, exactly. For on Twitter Hayhurst becomes The Garfoose, a "fire-breathing half-giraffe, half-moose." I spoke to Hayhurst last year, and he explained his Twitter strategy thusly:
"The Garfoose makes me special. ... I don't want people to think I'm useless unless I have fantastic numbers. I want my job to be second to who I am, but I can use my job as a way of getting these creative things out there. And it's my fans on Twitter and of my writing who I truly care about, because they are fans of Dirk Hayhurst, not the numbers."
Hayhurst interacts with his followers on his active feed (8200 tweets and counting), but don't expect him to return the favor. Only 25 Twitter users can claim to be followed by The Garfoose.
The right-hander, released by the Rangers this past offseason and currently trying to work his way back to affiliated ball, is nearing 7000 followers thanks to his prolific output and relentlessly friendly attitude. Follow him if you're a fan of inspirational sayings, humorous ballpark anecdotes and unfiltered stream of consciousness musings. "I just try to be positive and uplifting, and never be negative," Schlact told me this past offseason. "Most of the players I know joined [Twitter] after I did, so there hasn't been much competition [in terms of followers]. But if I see a guy on Twitter that I know from another team, then we might have a friendly conversation before he comes into town. The fans see that and it brings a new light to the competition."
The chosen ones
First-round Draft picks have always received an inordinate amount of attention, as fans are always curious whether they'll live up to the hype (and big-money signing bonuses). Not surprisingly, when a first-round Draft pick signs up on Twitter a lot of followers are sure to follow.
@OfficialChevy (Chevez "Chevy" Clarke, OF) -- Clark was selected by the Angels with the 30th pick of last year's Draft, and his Twitter feed reflected his first-round status. The 19-year-old switch-hitter is shirtless in his profile picture, and quotes hip hop star Drake in his self-description. He has nearly 4,000 followers and uses Twitter primarily as a forum for back and forth conversation. And a good portion of this conversation reflects the tedium of life in extended Spring Training. A sample: "Down for any convo right now ... #talktome"
@DrewPomeranz (Drew Pomeranz, RHP, Kinston Indians) -- The fifth overall pick of the 2010 Draft, Pomeranz is now playing his first full professional season as a member of the Kinston Indians. He currently only tweets three or four times a week, but there are some gems sprinkled therein (e.g., "There is a man in a dirt field behind my hotel playing the bagpipes??")
@caseykelly23 (Casey Kelly, RHP, San Antonio Missions) -- Selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2008 Draft, Kelly is now a member of the Padres organization (he was one of three prospects dealt for Adrian Gonzalez). Despite closing in on the 4,000-followers mark, Kelly's feed is heavy on dialogue with current and former teammates. But he interacts quite a bit with followers as well, as indicated by recent conversations on Cinco De Mayo plans as well as his three favorite movies, a list that includes mixed martial arts flick Never Back Down.
@Decker6 (Cody Decker, 1B, San Antonio Missions) -- Kelly's teammate Cody Decker has had a rough month of May after a hot start to the season, but he leaves the playing field behind once he's on Twitter. The 24-year-old issues a stream of wry observations and one-liners, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Judging from his recent output, he may very well have a future as a late-night talk show joke writer. Three recent highlights:
"Arnold, being the renegade politician he was, supported the 'Secret Child Left Behind Act'"
"'American Graffiti was a title establishing the time period...Not about vandalizing America, Senator.' - George Lucas at McCarthy hearings."
"Boys II Men should reunite to form Men II Old Men."
"It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt" is a favorite parental aphorism, and one that Minor League players using Twitter should take to heart. Just because something can be said doesn't mean it should be, and this is especially true for figures in the public eye (such as Minor League Baseball players).
A recent incident illustrates this fact. Altoona Curve catcher Tony Sanchez, incensed after a loss on May 9, tweeted the following (typos left intact): "Sometimes the umpires just decide to blow a game. Never seen a winning teams crow go silent as the game winning run crosses the plate."
The Pirates prospect's derogatory message did not make a good impression. Noted baseball scribe Peter Gammons issuing his own Tweet on the matter, and the appropriateness of the message was debated throughout the week in the Pittsburgh sports media. (The Pirates organization did not issue an official response, but farm director Kyle Stark told the Altoona Mirror that "We have not banned Twitter for any of our players.")
It was all too much for Sanchez, who decided to sign off. On May 17, he tweeted the following: ""see ya twitter. thanks to the fans for their support and continued support. Pittsburgh is the only goal and twitter is standing in my way."