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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

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.