There have been a lot of sports jobs lost over the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the latest cuts are in an unexpected area; Major League Baseball, and their “in-game coordinator” program, which handled the social accounts for most of the league’s teams. The program title was specifically about in-game social, but the role stretched beyond that for many involved. Several of those impacted by that MLB cut, which affected a lot of people who had been there for quite a while, tweeted about it Friday; here are some of those tweets.
One of the hats I’ve worn for the past 6 baseball seasons was removed today as the IGC social media program with MLB was eliminated.
Working in this role was such a blessing. Meeting so many new people and colleagues resulted in a lot of great friendships.
— Heather Rule (@hlrule) February 12, 2021
A lot of the creative minds behind MLB social accounts were unexpectedly let go off today. I was one of them.
Here is a link to my portfolio: https://t.co/7C2WOLqjJu.
I will thread some of my work.
Psalm 118:22 pic.twitter.com/WWDkFqcdYT
— Brian Havrilla (@brianhavrilla) February 12, 2021
my position was eliminated in the latest round of layoffs at MLB. Connecting the sport i love to more people was entirely joyful, and doing it well was too. I’m so proud of what the small Marlins social team created in my time, and I hope to continue to help in whatever capacity pic.twitter.com/ptMJlXp066
— mina (@maddc8) February 12, 2021
For somebody who was paid to do this, I don't have many words. I was let go by MLB today.
I'm very thankful for the league social crew and know they're all destined for bigger and better things.
— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) February 12, 2021
What exactly is this program and this setup? Well, it’s been off the radar for many, but the IGC program has been incredibly important to MLB teams’ social media accounts over the past several years. Jon Greenberg of The Athletic revealed many of the details in a 2019 profile of Travis Miller (at that time, the manager of the whole IGC program as well as the primary @Cubs tweeter) and Nicole Bersani (a Cubs’ digital content manager) as part of that publication’s 35-under-35 series. It’s unclear what this specific move means for those particular people, but Greenberg’s piece is notable for its specifics on the IGC program overall. Some key parts of that:
At 34, Miller is one of the older professional tweeters in baseball, even though he’s only been doing it since 2014. His professional title is actually in-game coordinator, or IGC for short. In fact, he’s the manager of all the IGCs, so part of his job is keeping tabs on what his peers are doing across Major League Baseball. (Slack helps this task.)
…MLB Advanced Media has been in charge of baseball’s online presence since 2000, and yes, that includes Twitter, if the teams want the help.
…In the offseason, MLBAM executives met in Chicago with their Cubs counterparts, and when [Cubs media relations director Peter] Chase heard Miller’s name for a potential full-time role, he pushed for it. Perhaps it wasn’t as big as getting Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from the Orioles in 2013, but who can say?
…The idea of Major League Baseball’s “in-game coordinator” spread from a handful of teams in 2015 to 14 in 2016 to 21 the next year and now they’re at 28, with only the Pirates and Rays as the holdouts who control their own Twitter accounts entirely.
As mentioned above, all of that information is from a 2019 profile on one particular person in the IGC program (of course, he was also the manager of the entire program), so it isn’t necessarily completely reflective of where the IGC program was as a whole heading into the 2021 season. But it does illustrate the importance of this program and how much it meant to many teams. And Greenberg’s whole piece is well worth a read for what it meant for the Cubs to have one specific person in Miller as the primary voice of their Twitter account, what that entailed for him (working from the press box during home games, working from home for road games, and closely coordinating with team content managers like Bersani) and why he and the other IGC people were employed by MLBAM rather than directly by the team.
This MLB move seems likely to dramatically reshape how many of the league’s teams handle their social media accounts, and it seems likely to mean that many of those accounts may have different voices behind them both this year and going forward. And that’s a curious move, considering how important many of those people have been to establishing consistent social media voices for the teams involved and how important a good social media presence is for sports teams at the moment. We’ll see how this works out for the league and for the impacted teams.