The Hartford Yard Goats are winding down a 141-game road trip, finishing up their 2016 campaign in the capitols of Virginia and Pennsylvania. They were the subject of a recent front page feature in the Sports section of The New York Times, in which writer Gary Santaniello spoke to a few of the players during their series in Manchester, New Hampshire and got a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road.
I also was in Manchester and caught up with Yard Goats Promotions Manager Dana Feigenbaum. Dana has been an invaluable resource for those following the team all season. Her efforts on social media have been nothing short of admirable, as she has succeeded in chronicling the months-long grind in an entertaining and informative way for fans and writers alike.
Dana graciously took the time to answer a few questions and provide some more insight about her role during this strange season:
With the constant setbacks in opening the stadium in mind, how has your job evolved over the course of the season?
I've had more time to focus on social media, and particularly baseball on social media, as opposed to venue information, promotions, etc. I've also had more time to focus on making the 2017 season a home run (LOL) at Dunkin' Donuts Park.
As specifically as you can, describe your typical working day both when you travel with the team and when you stay in Hartford.
A typical day in the office starts at 9 am. I come in and check our messages on all three social media outlets and then check our mentions on Twitter. I will go through and see what I can change on our website. I like to change the front tile daily to keep a new look on our page. I make sure our mascot appearances are scheduled and respond to any requests that we have.
Recently, with the input of my coworkers and bosses (GM Tim Restall and Assistant GM Mike Abramson), I have been working on the promotional schedule for next season.
I also have been thinking of different ideas for next season, including video content and creative on-field promotions that we can do and ways to get our fans engaged with our new brand.
My work day at home never really ends until I go to sleep, because I'm always interacting with followers on social media through the end of the night.
When I am on the road I usually get to the field a little before batting practice. I try and capture different things from BP for social media so it isn't the same thing every day because that can get repetitive to our followers.
Usually the relievers are out there first so I will go see what they are doing. It always starts off with some hacky sack. At the beginning of the season Austin House asked me if I could reach out to Dragonfly Footbags because the bullpen LOVES hacky sack and their bags. I did and sure enough I had a response within a day and my contact there sent the guys a bunch of new toys to play with.
Then I'll go check out the position players, sometimes go live on Facebook or just take photos or videos as well as posting on our Snapchat (yardgoats). It is always refreshing when we have a series against a National League affiliate coming up because our manager, Darin Everson, will do some fun bunting games with our pitchers and the guys will get really into it.
When BP is done I like to try and interview the players in some way. The most recent one I did was a Facebook Live in Trenton with Ashley Graeter and Dillon Thomas about the road trip. Once BP is done, I get our lineup posted as well as our game day tweet ready to go. Throughout the game I update our Twitter with what is going on as well as post on Snapchat from the dugout. When the game finishes I'll post a graphic with the final score on all social media outlets. Sometimes Minor League Baseball or other reporters/journalists want to speak to a player or two so I'll help organize that.
What is the toughest challenge you've faced this season?
Trying to introduce our fans and followers to the players and staff from afar. The fans want to know these guys and they want to feel a connection to them, so I've made a great effort to provide quality video content, etc. so there's more of a familiarity.
How do you feel the Hartford-area community has responded to the team this year? Has it been it difficult to generate support locally, or have prospective fans and business partners/sponsors been understanding about the situation?
We've been very fortunate in that our season ticket holders and sponsors have been right by our side through this process. Everybody gets it...they don't have to like it, but they get it. They understand we're in it for the long haul, and that once the ballpark is open it will be one of the best in Minor League Baseball.
What has the feedback been like from fans about the Yard Goats' strong social media presence, particularly on Twitter and Snapchat?
They love it. When Mike Abramson launched our Twitter account he had a unique vision to combat a difficult task. The team didn't exist yet and he needed to try and build a fan base. He found using things like "I" (writing in the first person), using GIFs, and really engaging with people who tweeted at us sparked a whole community. While most people go the traditional route, we like to have fun with the account; after all we are THE Yard Goats. Our brand is very important to us and being interactive and creative on Twitter will translate to the fun environment that we aim to have at Dunkin' Donuts Park. One of our major pushes has been to showcase fans that tweet or post on Instagram or Facebook photos of them wearing their gear all over the world. It is great to see how far our brand has grown in such a little time.
Snapchat is probably my favorite social media outlet to use. It makes it easy to engage fans and give them the behind-the-scenes content that they wouldn't normally get to see, particularly with the team on the road all season. It makes fans feel like they are actually part of the team and are there watching things like BP or the guys high fiving in the dugout.
Has there been any collaboration between yourself and other Eastern League or other minor league organizations that has proven to be particularly valuable?
As far as the other affiliates in the Rockies organization, I have had a lot of fun engaging with them and calling them "big bro" or "little bro" or even calling the Rockies "Dad". While Boise, Grand Junction, Modesto, and Albuquerque may be across the country and Asheville is down south, it is cool to interact with the organization just through social media.
Once in a while I like to tweet at other teams too, just to connect as one big baseball family. With Mike as my collaborator, we sent out a fake press release listing all the teams that didn't follow us on Twitter (Yes, we checked all 244 teams). It ended up being a huge success and helped us connect with a bunch of teams with whom we would not have had a prior relationship. For example, the Fresno Grizzlies tweeted that they would only follow us if Albuquerque swept them in July. That didn't happen, but Fresno followed us last week (after Albuquerque swept them then) and we interacted on Twitter about it.
We have the Eastern League meetings in October where I am sure we will collaborate on ideas, which I am looking forward to.
What will be your primary focus this offseason to enhance the Yard Goats' brand for 2017?
I will continue to work on our promotional schedule and brainstorm ways to engage our fans with the new stadium set to open. Also, continue to grow our brand on Twitter. Follow us!