On the field and on the internet, the Cincinnati Reds are MLB's most fun team
By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
The Cincinnati Reds are one of the most exciting teams in Major League Baseball, not only for their passionate play on the field but also for the colorful personalities they have in the clubhouse.
Throughout this season, I have been showcasing one player every week with my six-tool player of the week award. The six-tool player isn’t a stat-based award. It’s given to someone who stands out for having fun playing the game of baseball. A six-tool player is electric to watch, whether that be through flipping bats, swinging on a 3-0 count or just breaking some of the dumb, unwritten rules in baseball.
If ever there were a six-tool team, it would be the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds don’t care about your unwritten rules. They care about having fun, playing with passion and winning baseball games. This week, in fact, they came to L.A. and took two of three from the mighty Dodgers.
Nobody in baseball does a better job of showcasing the fun of the sport than the Reds' social media team, who went so far as to change their Twitter bio to "Bat flippin’, show boatin’, son of a guns" after Garrett labeled the team that in a postgame media conference.
I reached out to the Reds social media team this week and had a chance to ask them about their approach to harnessing the team's energy online.
"Basically, what he said embodied what we want our team to be for content purposes because that’s the most engaging stuff, and fans want to see that stuff," social media manager Chadwick Fischer said of the quote from Garrett and the subsequent new look on Twitter.
How did fans react to the new bio?
"They loved it until the six- or seven-game losing streak," he said with a laugh. "After we've lost three or four in a row, then they start calling for it to come down."
The social media crew recognizes that their team has personality everywhere you turn on the baseball field. We chatted about how they work to showcase their players.
"You know something's engaging when it happens," Fischer said. "Joey Votto is just one of those guys that anything he does off the playing field that is noticeable is going to be talked about and worth sharing on channels. ... Seeing those moments when they happen, whether it’s on the road or in our ballpark, and being able to capture it, whether it’s photos or video … knowing good content when you see it is the best thing for engaging your fans."
Throughout this season, I have become more and more engaged with what the Reds are offering on social media. It all started when I tweeted them early in the season and got a response.
Not every team takes the time to respond to fans on the internet, but for those that do, it can make a big difference.
"I remember being a 16-, 17-year-old on Twitter and replying to these other accounts that are way, way bigger, with hundreds of thousands of followers, and if you got a like on your tweet or a response from them, it’d make your day," social media coordinator Nolan Mattson said.
"It’d make your week just knowing you have a verified account actually responding to you. ... Knowing the joy it’ll bring somebody, especially if it’s their favorite team or their favorite club responding to them, I think that plays a huge part."
Fischer also noted that "Every tweet you get that pops up in your mentions is an opportunity to engage with someone. ... So being able to be witty when we have to or funny or understanding or loving, we can be that when we’re talking with our fans on Twitter."
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Speaking of witty, I love witty. I’m the self-proclaimed dad joke king, and there was one Reds tweet from earlier this season that I absolutely loved. It came about a week or so into the season, when rookie Jonathan India, also known as Indy, got a hit to bump his average to .500 on the season.
Mattson had a little fun after that.
"He was off to a hot start, so I was just waiting for him to hit exactly .500 to call him Indy 500. That's my favorite [tweet] this year," he said. "I knew that was just a one-time [thing] ... so that one was preplanned and waiting on."
Baseball should be fun, and baseball should be celebrated, and the Reds are capturing that online better than anybody else. They’ve also been at it longer than just about any other team.
Lisa Braun is the team's director of digital media, and she has been with the organization for 12 years. She has worked in the social media realm for 10 years, making her, by her estimate, one of the first full-time social media staff members with an MLB club.
When asked about the key to what her team does, Braun said, "Being a smaller market team, we’re looking for ways to stand out. Phil Castellini [Reds president and COO] is supportive of social media and understands the importance of the digital space in bringing in a younger audience."
The Reds look for ways to entertain, and they always seem to be on trend with what is popular in the social media world at any given time.
"If I’m not working, I’m scrolling social media," Mattson said, "looking at Twitter and TikTok for popular trends."
One of the most talked about moments so far this MLB season was the slide into home by outfielder Nick Castellanos. He was hit by a pitch and later scored on a wild pitch. After sliding in to score, Castellanos got up and flexed on the pitcher before heading off the field, which caused benches to clear between the Reds and Cardinals.
Castellanos was suspended by the league after the altercation, so I wondered how the social media squad navigated a controversial scenario such as that while making sure to not say the wrong thing.
"There’s definitely a line," Fischer said. "We try to talk about it without talking about it. ... We want to be topical and be involved with what fans are talking about. But we can’t just come out and say what we think."
It isn't easy to do what this group does, but they do it very well. They work as a team, and they get things done as a team.
Most importantly, they care. They are the voice of the Cincinnati Reds, and they want to showcase their team the best way they can while making people laugh and growing their audience online.
So give them a follow. Engage with them. Have some fun with them. I promise you won’t regret it.
Mattson said it best: "One little response, with us just typing out a 30-second tweet, responding to them, can make them a fan for life."
It worked for me.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.