He's got a quarter of a million Twitter followers, but you don't know his name. He's talked about on social media more positively -- and is responsible for more smiles from fans -- than the Dodgers' Luis Cruz, Ted Lilly and Juan Uribe combined. He's baseball savvy, he's creative and he's the man behind the team's Twitter feed. He's 23-year-old Josh Tucker, Social Media Coordinator of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The world started to take note around the sixth inning of L.A.'s game with the Padres in San Diego April 11, within about a minute of the Carlos Quentin/Zack Greinke bench-clearing brawl, which led to the Dodger starter's broken collarbone and six to eight weeks on the shelf. At 9:16 p.m. Tucker tweeted: "For the record, Zack Greinke took Carlos Quentin's charge like a middle linebacker." And it was on.
USA Today's Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz helped keep the media ball rolling with his summary of the battle after the battle, fans in two National League cities continued the fight online, and commentators chimed in.
Jon Weisman expressed his disappointment in Tucker's tweet, but KSPN radio's John Ireland thought it was great, adding his hopes that Major League Baseball allow the thought process to continue. And continue it did, with no censorship. MLB was cool with everything.
"I work very closely with Major League Baseball Advanced Media [BAM]," says Tucker. "Arturo Pardavila, their head of social media, and my direct 'partner,' Keiko Uraguchi, are incredibly supportive and brilliant. BAM serves as a tool and sounding board for me. Yes, they have guidelines of what we can and cannot do, but ultimately they're working with us and for us. We all have the same goal."
Nearly 13,000 retweets of a single missive helps the process, and most are pleased, with the possible exception of a few fans in San Diego.
Tucker also garnered some attention earlier with his Star Spangled Banner Twitter interaction with comics Rob Delaney and Andy Richter. Other Tucker tweets that got people talking include an NBA-trade deadline note, another after the MTV/VHI hack, and two geared toward rival fan bases, the Yankees and Angels.
The 2011 USC Annenberg grad explains his responsibilities this way: "The boring answer: I manage, monitor and produce content for the Dodgers social media channels, mainly: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine. I get made fun of within the organization for having gone to college to learn to tweet 140 characters and take photos, but the reality is that the majority of my job is overall strategy -- from developing contests, promotions and giveaways to supporting our marketing initiatives. The truth: I'm a digital cheerleader."
His philosophy? "It's typically the tweets where you can hear a voice behind the account. Every professional team can do play-by-play and post 'exclusive' photos, but my goal is to identify and speak with our fans, not to them. Our fans love pop culture, so if it's a subtle reference to Trinidad James or a throwback to Elton John at Dodger Stadium, I think they appreciate that. Social media is about being relevant, so tweets that happen in real time, outside the realm of baseball content generally surprise people -- in a positive way."
Tucker credits a sports public relations class, taught by Josh Rawitch, then the VP of Communications for the Dodgers, and Jeff Moeller, of L.A. Kings PR, while at USC, not only for the knowledge he gained but for connecting with Rawitch, who eventually helped with a foot in Dodgers' door.
Tucker is quick to thank the club for the opportunity he's been afforded: "On a daily basis, I get reminded (by our fans) that I have a dream job, and I really do. I can't really look ahead without thinking how fortunate I am to be doing what I'm doing for one of the most historic teams in professional sports history.
"If you could include the support I receive internally, it would mean a lot. Jon Chapper and Joe Jareck in our PR department, Keira Hertz [in the digital department] and Cat Belanger [in marketing] are invaluable resources. Jon and Joe do the heavy lifting on the road, providing me with photos and insights that allow me to produce the content that our fans crave. Keira held my hand when I started and genuinely cares about our fans, and constantly gives me the tools and support to succeed. Cat is responsible for booking our celebrity appearances and anthems. The content that we are able to produce as a result of her work and creativity is a tremendous help."
Follow the Dodgers on Twitter for more than the occasional words of wisdom. And you stay classy, Josh Tucker.
Baseball Media Notes:
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Check Los Angeles Daily News' Jill Painter's appearance on Going Roggin, with Jimmy Bramlett of LAist. It's fun stuff. And props to Tom Hoffarth, also of the Daily News, for another in a long line of great April baseball book series.
By now you've all heard about the Jason Collins Sports Illustrated story and have your own opinions. I'm 100 percent behind him, but also want to acknowledge Franz Lidz for co-penning the piece. Lidz is an accomplished writer who deserves to be recognized. And for what it's worth, if and when some Dodger player ever wants to come out, I'd be honored to share the byline, "with Howard Cole."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story contained inaccurate information about the number of people who follow the Dodgers' Twitter account. It is more than 250,000, not more than 750,000. We regret the error.