Feb 26, 2021 - Sports

MLB to in-game coordinators: You're out

Illustration of a baseball bat hovering over a broken cell phone.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MLB terminated its "in-game coordinator" social media program two weeks ago in a move that could drastically alter how teams engage with their fans online.

The backdrop: MLB created the program in 2015 to keep pace with the rise of social, deploying IGCs to some 25 different clubs to complement the in-house social team and be a liaison between league and club.

  • IGCs were hired seasonally — though often retained from year-to-year — working all 162 games as do-it-all, social mavens (most notably, but hardly exclusively, as the voice of Twitter).
  • For home games, they worked from the stadium; away games, remotely. There was no exact job description, to which anyone who's worked in social can attest is the norm.

The state of play: According to a league source, the decision to shutter the program stemmed both from pandemic-related cuts and the fact that, because no two IGCs did exactly the same thing, it no longer reflected the league-run program it was born as.

  • Worth noting: The source mentioned this was not a decision that was taken lightly, and that the league is not abandoning social — just this program.

The big picture: It's likely even the most engaged fans had no idea what went into creating the content they loved, but now they might find out the hard way.

  • "IGCs were really good at showing the human side of players," a source with 10 years of MLB social experience told me. "I noticed they were always at batting practice, getting unique video of players."
  • "Now, if I'm looking for content, hoping to see video of Tatís, or Lindor with his new team ... I just feel like people will be stretched too thin to produce stuff like that."
  • One now-former IGC told me the group that was laid off comprised "25 of the most talented people I've ever come across in my life. ... Getting rid of a lot of talented folks who help market a brand that kind of desperately needs that was very puzzling for everybody involved."

Between the lines: The timing of the decision — just days before spring training began — amplifies its impact, leaving teams shorthanded with little time to figure out a plan for the season.

The bottom line: This feels similar to the narrative that often surrounds MLB labor negotiations, inasmuch as cutting something so relatively inexpensive seems shortsighted.

Go deeper: 2019 profile of the IGC program manager (The Athletic)

Go deeper