|Wagner helps players get in touch with their fans
|Wagner currently has 12 players as full time clients, most of whom are in Triple-A or the majors. She tries to help them deal with the barrage of requests thrust upon them by fans.
By Chuck King
ORLANDO – Johanna Wagner is trying to build a bridge that spans the widening gulf between baseball players and fans.
The way Wagner sees it, she can help baseball players get back in touch with their fans and vice-versa, making a trip to the ballpark more enjoyable for everyone involved.
“I felt like the players needed to understand what the fan culture really is so that they could take that extra step and give something back to the fans,” Wagner said.
Few are more qualified to talk about baseball’s fan culture than Wagner.
In 2002, Wagner became the first woman to attend all 30 major league ballparks by herself in the same season. Her book, A View From The Stands, details the experience.
She also created a web site, LoveMyTeam.com, to give fans a place to tell their baseball stories.
“One thing I found is that people will talk to you about baseball,” Wagner said. “You don’t talk to a stranger about what’s really going on in their personal life, but baseball is a really easy way for them to open up and reach out. I found it very easy to make friends and make connections.”
Wagner is taking the information learned during her ballpark visits to help players improve their images with fans.
First and foremost, she reassures players that most of the fans are still rooting for them to succeed.
“The only fans they come in contact with, really, are the ones who are shoving something in their face to have signed or someone who’s standing behind them for two or three hours telling them they suck,” Wagner explained. “They don’t get to see the smart fans who are knowledgeable and love their team.”
Wagner currently has 12 players as full time clients, most of whom are in Triple-A or the majors. She tries to help them deal with the barrage of requests thrust upon them by fans.
She also acts as a media coach, working with players on their interview skills, teaching polite ways to turn down requests, and instructing them on how to build relationships with reporters.
“She has valuable knowledge and information that my clients can benefit from as they learn to deal with the media and fans on a daily basis,” said Page Odle, an agent with PSI Sports Management. “I recommend media and fan training for all of my clients whose goal is to be a major league baseball player.”
Wagner’s message is intended to help fans, too. She says fans forget the players are human, that they get rattled when they make mistakes and the often have trouble dealing with the constant scrutiny of their lives.
“Part of it is educating fans that “no” doesn’t mean the player hates you,” Wagner said.
Wagner still attends nearly 100 baseball games a year, one third of which are minor league baseball contests.
When 2007’s spring training starts Wagner will have another reason to be at the ballpark. She’ll be interviewing players and coaches for her next book, which will help fans understand the work objectives for people in baseball organizations.
Check out my blog for more on Minor League Baseball's winter meetings and minor league players and fans.