Inside the MLB social program that Pete Alonso and others are embracing

Pete Alonso poses before participating in players' weekend.
Pete Alonso poses before participating in players' weekend.

NEW YORK – For Pete Alonso, mother truly did know best.

Before he became the Polar Bear and closed in on the Mets’ single-season home run record, Alonso was like any other youngster who dreaded taking photos.

“I would always get frustrated hearing, ‘Oh, stop, let’s take a picture, you’re going to appreciate it later,’” Alonso told Yahoo Sports on Friday afternoon at Citi Field. “I was like, ‘Oh, stop, no I won’t.’ Well, it turns out, I do appreciate it later.”

Alonso has come to recognize the value of having his career captured, and that’s why he’s one of the most active participants in MLB’s player social program and a frequent user of the Greenfly, a content distribution platform used by those in the program.

The first baseman is the second-most active user of the Greenfly application, and 376 players are enrolled in the player social program, according to data provided by Major League Baseball. Alonso estimated he uses the program several times per week, sending the content to his family and also using it for his social media pages.

“It’s really cool because in the minors it was tough to find pictures of myself. There was very little content out there. That’s just the nature of the beast,” Alonso said before the Mets faced the Braves. “Now, there’s a lot of really cool content out there. I appreciate it now, but one day down the road I’m going to appreciate it more. It’s really cool stuff and I’m happy they’re doing that for the players.”

There has long been a knock that MLB does not market its stars as well as other professional sports leagues, and MLB is trying to change that narrative.

The league’s Marketing department created the player social program with the goal of finding a way to connect some of its stars with the younger demographic that uses various social-media platforms. That intimate connection between the players and fans can help breed a new generation of baseball diehards.

To further this cause, MLB partnered with Greenfly, which was co-founded by former Dodgers and Mets outfielder Shawn Green. MLB has a content creator at each game, and content is then uploaded for the players to use.

Alonso, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. are among those who participate in the player social program.

“One of our major goals was to increase our efforts around marketing players,” said Barbara McHugh, MLB’s Senior VP of Marketing. “The younger demographic wants to be engaged on a daily basis. Understanding that fans, and generally younger audiences, consume a lot of content, we thought let’s be a resource to our players.”

McHugh said the feedback her department has received thus far has been “extremely positive” with more and more players opting into the program.

There has been a 23 percent increase is social activity by those who are part of the program, which has led to a significant raise in engagement and following, according to the league’s data. While players receive notifications when Greenfly has content for them, they can also make requests for unique content.

“We’re excited about the momentum built so far,” McHugh said during a phone interview Friday, “and certainly excited about carrying it through the rest of the season and into the offseason where players have extra time.”

Before Friday’s game, Alonso participated in a quick photoshoot of his all-white players’ weekend jersey with “Polar Bear” on the back.

Alonso recognizes the importance of social media in this day and age, noting that one of his agents first notified him of the program.

“My mom and other family members loved having pictures and stuff like that, so I can send it to family and it’s extremely easy to use so it’s really accessible and so useful,” said Alonso, who entered Friday with 40 homers. “It’s been a big help.”

Alonso likes that the fans can get a closer look into who he is off the field.

“Being in New York, I’m trying to take advantage of that because there’s such an awesome fanbase and there are people who are kind of curious about how I’m thinking and my thought process, whether it’s on Twitter or Instagram,” Alonso said. “A lot of the fans don’t necessarily get to see or interact with me in certain ways so to be genuine and to be authentic, I want to give them an accurate representative of how I represent myself, and use that as an extension to show them.”

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