Jessica Quiroli over at Heels on the Field recently released her third annual 20 best minor league players to follow on Twitter list. Cody Decker of the Tucson Padres tops her list for reasons we’ll get to in a moment.
Quiroli answered a few questions about her list that I sent her via email. Loved her answers. The one thing she wants people to understand about the list is, it is an extension of what she loves – writing and reporting about the minor leagues. There’s no reason for anybody to get bent out of shape about it. She does it for fun.
And now, here’s the Q & A:
What was your original inspiration for starting this list three years ago?
I originally just wanted to throw something fun together, to give some of the MiLBers exposure. I was noticing how many more minor league guys were using Twitter and I was enjoying a lot of what I read, plus fans were seeing another side of them and I thought that was an interesting new way for players to get their names out there. It got way more attention and reaction that I expected. So I started to pull together a list, and track players, and then decided to add honorable mentions the second year. There’s three lists now and it’s gotten tough to make final decisions.
Do you hear from players who are on your list after it comes out? Do you hear from players you omitted?
I hear from a lot of players. They’re either happy and excited if they’re on it, or really annoyed or poke fun at not being included. Players even complain about not being high enough on the list. The worst was finding out a player was making really nasty remarks about me because he wasn’t included. It’s supposed to be fun! But guys will also argue with me about being excluded, and they’re usually really funny about it.
Cody Decker tops your list and you explained in short why you put him there. For fans who aren’t familiar with "Weightgate," explain what happened and tell us why Cody’s response to it moved him to the top of your list.
Rich Wilson responded to a reader about Decker’s prospect status. He guessed Decker’s weight, and didn’t have many positive things to say about him in his assessment. Cody Decker didn’t back away from it or ignore, as some players might. He responded with this.
After that, it caught fire on Twitter and he got really into it, responding with humor, and also, I’d suspect, genuine frustration. But it took me all of a few minutes once I sat down to open this year’s document to know that did it for me. That incident came back to me over and over when I was coming up with the top five. Minor league players are battling so hard for something, especially if they’re not ranked high. That fit every criteria I have: humor, genuine emotion, showing what the minor leagues are like, and a unique, meaningful use of social media.
Players who make for a good follow on Twitter are the ones who give us a glimpse behind the scenes at minor league baseball life, or they interact with fans or they simply let their personality shine. They understand the "social" aspect of social media. It gives fans a perspective that other generations of fans never got to see. As silly as Twitter can be sometimes, that is a neat aspect, isn’t it?
It’s a great and valuable aspect. For example, last year I ranked former Boston prospect Ryan Westmoreland #1. He’d gone through so much with having a brain tumor and going through surgery. He tried and tried and the team wanted to see him recover and play, but, this year he retired. That was so sad, but I remember how special it was to watch him tweet his experiences, progress, and, finally, his difficult decision.
A lot of the guys on the list are sharing parts of their lives that are extremely difficult: having no money, bus travel, the bus breaking down, getting sent back ... minor leaguers are the heart of baseball. Twitter allows fans to see that.