Mississippi State University students Hunter Richardson, left, Lee VanHorn, center, and athletic department employee Bob Carskadon are doing some of the heavy lifting behind the scenes, helping coordinate the university’s social media efforts during the College World Series. Photo by: Scott Walters/Dispatch Staff
June 18, 2013 10:50:26 AM
OMAHA, Neb. -- Lee VanHorn attended the 2007 College World Series as a student at Winona High School.
Fast forward six years and VanHorn is back in the Midwest again watching Mississippi State University play for a national championship. However, things are so much different this time around: The MSU graduate student finds a much heavier workload on his plate.
VanHorn and fellow classmate Hunter Richardson are both student workers in the Athletic Media Relations Department at MSU. The duo, along with MSU athletic department employee Bob Carskadon, is helping coordinate the university's social media efforts during this year's event.
"I came as a fan the last time MSU was here and to be honest with you, I don't really remember a whole lot," VanHorn said. "I really like being here for the baseball. Then, State being here is an added bonus. After that first trip, I always knew I wanted to come back again.
"Being at the old Rosenblatt (Stadium) was a great experience. I always wanted to know if the experience was the same (at the new TD Ameritrade Park) and it is. There has always been so much going on around the games. What they did at TD Ameritrade is incredible. It is not the same as being at Rosenblatt, but it is still a great experience."
MSU continued to make the experience incredible for anyone wearing maroon and white Monday night. A two-run single by Trey Porter in the eighth inning lifted MSU past Indiana University 5-4 in a winners' bracket game played before a crowd of 25,260.
At 2-0 in the CWS for only the second time in school history, the Bulldogs will play either Indiana or Oregon State University at 2 p.m. Friday for the Bracket One championship and a spot in next week's national championship series.
With the ever-evolving world of social media continuing to grow, the demands increase as well. For more than 20 years, Joe Dier has served as the primary media relations director for baseball at the school. The additional student help is much needed to keep as many people as possible in the know about the program.
"So much has changed in the social media world," said Richardson, a senior from the Memphis area. "In 2007, MSU had a MySpace page and that was about it. Twitter is the big thing. It is very rewarding when fans respond to you and tell you they are hanging on every tweet. They want to know what is going on in the game. They also want to know all about the team.
"Social media just gives the team a major avenue to connect with the fans."
Richardson handles in-game tweeting for each MSU baseball game. Reports may include anything from the play by play, to lineup changes, to injury updates and photos. In addition to tweeting, there is a Facebook page updated regularly throughout the tournament. VanHorn primarily assists with note-gathering and tracking of certain statistics and player milestones for both the school and other media platforms, such as ESPN. Both help in gathering postgame video from press conferences for the school's official web site.
There is also random video from other aspects of the trip, such as team dinners, practice sessions and off-day activities, such as zoo trips. This video is again disseminated through a wide variety of social media platforms, including Vine and Tout.
"The demands grow every year," VanHorn said. "It is amazing that at one time, one person could handle all of these demands. Those days are long gone. If one person is doing everything, then a school is missing out on a lot."
Bob Carskadon. another MSU graduate, is the head of Bulldog Sports Radio and co-hosts the daily award-winning Internet show, "The B&B Show." In addition to those duties, Carskadon is the official blogger for the university's athletic department. His blog may be read on the school's web site.
"There is so much to do and see in Omaha," Carskadon said. "And it is all within walking distance of our hotel. I have really been blown away by the entire experience. This is my first College World Series and it is obvious that the City of Omaha treat it like their own child. Everybody is so nice and goes out of their way to make this an incredible experience for everybody involved."
Carskadon has been roaming the grandstands for interviews of former players and other dignitaries connected to the school. One such interview took place Monday night when Carskadon got to meet Burke Masters, one of the school's all-time greats and a teammate of current MSU head coach John Cohen on the 1990 College World Series-participant MSU squad.
"Meeting all of the people has been the best part of this trip," Carskadon said. "It is like one big pep rally. It has been great meeting so many people who support and love one school. The passion for the program is unmatched. It has been a lot of fun helping share those stories this week."
Fun continues to be the buzz word for all of the work force. Long hours have been spent doing the behind the scenes work that helps make sure that one extra fan has his question answered and that one ESPN producer has that one obscure fact before a broadcast begins.
"I feel very blessed to be in this position," Richardson said. "This is far and away the best event I have ever worked. To be able to be here and to be part of this special occasion makes you really feel humbled and blessed.
"That one thank you that you get is motivation to keep going. It has been an incredible experience. It is even better when the team is winning. Hopefully, the guys can keep it up."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter