By giving fans a voice in its shows through social media integration in recent years, MLB Network has built a foundation of one-to-one conversation with its fanbase. Entering 2019, MLB Network sought to create a closer connection through social media with the next generation of baseball fans who are just beginning their love of the sport.
Some of MLB Network’s best-performing and best-received content includes breakdowns and “Diamond Demos” that teach fans at home a lesson about the game and how to play it. Knowing this, MLB Network saw there was a way to successfully reach its younger audience by making them a focal point of their shows “MLB Central” and “MLB Tonight,” which would help educate young fans about the game and foster their love for the sport.
In an effort to make youth baseball and softball players the focal point of this social media campaign, MLB Network asked parents (and kids 13-or-older) to post videos of their youngsters in action on Twitter and Instagram with #SandlotToTheShow and @MLBNetwork tagged. From there, it became all about the one-on-one communication between these young players and their new “coaches.” Each week, “MLB Central” or “MLB Tonight” featured a #SandlotToTheShow segment to a national audience, where select videos were analyzed by MLB Network’s lineup of former MLB players and Hall of Famers, including Pedro Martínez, John Smoltz and Jim Thome. In these breakdowns, MLB Network’s analysts highlighted what the young players did well and also gave them feedback on an area where a mechanical tweak could help improve their performances. MLB Network encouraged these young fans to continue to play and improve by welcoming follow-up videos showing how they incorporated the feedback they were given and furthering their one-on-one instruction.
Throughout the year, MLB Network also welcomed special guests to join in on #SandlotToTheShow and offer their own feedback for young players. Featured guests included Olympic Gold Medal-winning softball pitcher Jennie Finch, 2019 Mets All-Star Jeff McNeil, Rays outfielder Tommy Pham, Dodgers rookie Gavin Lux, and Padres phenom Fernando Tatís Jr.
Going beyond social media and TV, MLB Network also took #SandlotToTheShow IRL! During MLB All-Star Week, MLB Network held several hitting and pitching tutorials at Play Ball Park in Cleveland with its analysts, providing in-person instruction and feedback to young players. MLB Network also partnered with the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones on a youth-oriented #SandlotToTheShow Night, where analysts Mark DeRosa and Eric Byrnes provided a clinic for a local youth baseball team.
#SandlotToTheShow took MLB Network’s social engagement and interaction with its fans to a new level by offering young baseball and softball players a one-of-a-kind experience and inspiring the next generation of baseball fans. Not only did the campaign offer the opportunity for youngsters to showcase their abilities on a national stage, it also allowed them rare and unprecedented access to the type of elite-level coaching from former MLB players and Hall of Famers. In doing so, MLB Network showed that a sports brand or television network can not only leverage its platform for the entertainment of its fans, but it can also be a valuable resource to fans in their own baseball and softball development. #SandlotToTheShow was mentioned more than 13,000 times on Twitter and Instagram in 2019. Meanwhile, MLB Network featured the videos of more than 300 youth baseball and softball players, which were analyzed by MLB Network’s former players and special guests. The success of the weekly segment culminated in the creation of an hour-long #SandlotToTheShow show, which looked back at the best breakdowns from the entire year.