Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 16, 2013

Gillespie aims to connect Rays fans to players via technology

By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Statistics for Appalachian League ballplayers are only a few mouse-clicks away on a computer. Bailey Gillespie wants to use the same technology, and then some, to connect fans with Princeton Rays players on a more personal level.

Gillespie, who graduated last month from Con-cord University, is already at work in her summer internship at Hunnicutt Field, in charge of producing video profiles and features, taped game highlights and the expansion of the team’s outreach through social media.

“We want to interact with everyone (through) our video stream and also with our social networking site, so they have a full, 24/7 background with what’s going on here,” she said.

“On the website (princetonrays. net), there is a live stream of our Twitter feed that’s already on there, so they can access us through our website as well.”

Princeton general manager Jim Holland said, “This is a road we’ve been talking about going down for a couple of years. ... It’s really a way to provide a live connection, not just numbers on a box score or still photos on a website.”

“We want to have moving video every night on our website. It should be an opportunity for every one of our fans to meet every one of our players personally.”

On Sunday afternoon, Gillespie was shooting video of interns working on the infield, and looking forward to getting some introductory comments from players as they arrived in Princeton to gear up for the season.

She said, “Right now, it’s so fast-paced, trying to get everything planned for the upcoming season, but it’s a very exciting atmosphere ... . New team, new people, new place to be.”

The Rays will meet the public on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. at Hunnicutt Field, and will begin the 2013 campaign in Danville on Thursday. The first home game is at 6:05 p.m. Sunday against the Burlington Royals.

By that time, Gillespie already should be implementing the media “game plan.”

“Basically, my game plan coming into it was, I wanted to show the community more than just the statistics and the outcomes of the games,” she said. “I want to give them more of a ... personal bond between the community and the players themselves.”

Her approach is to “give them more of a background of where this player’s from, what are his likes and dislikes, how did he end up getting here in the first place — as well as giving them how many home runs he hits a season, or his RBIs and his stolen bases.”

“We also want to try to connect the viewer to our Facebook and Twitter. We’re going to try and put things in like our Rays player of the week, where you get a signed baseball from your favorite player or things like that.”

A Charleston resident, Gillespie spent four years at Concord, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts with an emphasis in broadcasting and journalism.

But it was an elective class in another field that gave her the opportunity to apply her media knowledge for the Rays.

She said, “Just for some extra college credit, I took a sports management class. My professor (Angelica Edwards) had been in touch with Jim Holland. He said that he was needing someone to do some different media work for him this summer.”

“I was in her class at the time, and being a communications major, it just fit perfectly.”

Once she got the internship, she took a look at the local team’s Facebook and Twitter offerings and started generating ideas.

She said that on her first day of work last Wednesday, “For a couple of hours, I sat in the office with Jim and kind of started off from there. ... It’s been great, just talking with him and working with him. He is full of ideas, and always has great ideas.”

“He has helped me to be able to take my ideas and bring them to life.”

Holland has been generating promotions for Princeton professional baseball since the 1992 season. He is a five-time winner of the Appalachian League Promotional Award of Excellence.

Gillespie said she was already “definitely used to the field” in Princeton, having attended games while in college. It was not unexpected, given her background.

“I’ve grown up around sports my whole life,” she said. “My family is a very sports-oriented family, so I grew up watching baseball, football, soccer, basketball.”

“I’ve played, basically since birth, at some point in time, any sport. I was a volleyball player through middle school, high school and a year in college.”

After playing for St. Albans High, she took a year off from athletics. Then, she said, “I walked on to the Concord volleyball team my sophomore year.”

“I love the atmosphere of baseball,” she said. “I love how it’s so relaxed, you can just come and enjoy and spend time with friends and family. I also love the aspect of baseball where you never know what’s going to happen. ... It could last three hours; you could go into 13 innings instead of nine.”

Her approach to creating videos for the Rays, she said, is “basically just getting across what you want — and the player or celebrity you’re interviewing — wants.

“I don’t want to portray something that they didn’t mean, or put something out there that’s not interesting. I want to make a story, and be able to portray it from start to finish within my video.”

Asked about her career plans, she said, “I would love, one day, to work for ESPN or work somewhere in the sports media world,” she said. “Other than that, just work for a news station somewhere, and work my way up, just like every other (graduate).”

But for the next few months, she and the other Princeton Rays interns will work to keep the season going smoothly — and build up their resumes.

“Everyone that I’ve met so far has been very excited about this opportunity they’ve been given. They’re from all over the place,” she said. “It’s been neat.”

As of Sunday, she said, “I haven’t had too much interaction with them (the other interns), just yet. Most of them are here as sports management majors, so they’re certainly working on the field, the behind-the-scene workings of the baseball stadium.”

“One of them will be there to help me if I need anything for my media (responsibilities),” she added.

A traditional role for interns is to drop everything if heavy rain forces the stadium staff to pull the tarp over the playing surface. It’s not one of her required duties, but she said she’d do whatever is necessary.

She said, “Unless something crazy happens, they’re going to try to keep me strictly for media (coverage) and things like that. But you never know. There might be one rainy-day game where they need an extra hand, and they know that I’ll be out there helping them.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com