Baum-Walker field was sold out and full of energy. Arkansas played its rival, LSU, in a weekend series. Both teams were ranked in almost every publication.
It’s prime college baseball.
Up in the press section were three writers from CWS247. They made the trek out to Fayetteville to watch both these College World Series hopefuls live.
All three were from Omaha and granted media passes for all games that weekend. Those three were founder Noah Darling, Florida contributor Mitchell Cutcher and Summit League expert Reggie Wortman.
CWS247 had developed quite a following and was becoming a major player in the college baseball scene. The account had grown past just a place for Darling’s personal commentary to a full fledged media venture.
Darling said he never thought this account and the surrounding entities would grow so big. He had no formal media training and his full-time job has nothing to do with sports or media.
Darling originally made the account as a fan who just wanted to be more involved and knowledgeable about college baseball. It started out with following fans, retweeting scores across the country, and a little commentary mixed in.
“I have a distinct memory of getting my one hundredth follower and being very impressed with that,” Darling said. “A little later on I wrote my first article which got thousands of views.”
The CWS247 twitter account slowly built up into a major player in the college baseball scene. It’s up to over 11,000 followers and counting.
That kind of growth, which included a 5,000 follower increase just this year, could be because college baseball is a somewhat untapped market. It is challenging to find live games and up to date scores. College baseball is not typically a SportsCenter staple.
“It’s so easy to get into college basketball or college football since all you have to do is turn on the television and it’s the main topic of discussion,” Darling said. “No one is talking about college baseball like that right now”.
That kind of information deficiency combined with loads of passionate fans created an environment where a start-up digital media company could thrive.
It was not just Darling who ran a single account anymore. CWS247 has grown to include 28 separate contributors who cover a variety of schools. A majority of SEC schools are represented but it does not stop there. Some schools in other major conferences who have historically good baseball teams have stepped up as well like Michigan and South Florida.
To acquire more writers and contributors Darling made a ‘help wanted’ post with one condition: the applicant had to be passionate about college baseball and the team they would cover.
One of the first people who signed on was Mark Garland. Garland now covers Oregon State baseball for CWS247.
“I interacted with the CWS account last year while watching the Beavers play and then this year Noah followed my account and was asking for writers,” Garland said. “Noah liked my tweets so I said I’d write about Oregon State and it turns out lots of people enjoy my coverage.”
Garland said he was hooked in from his first article. That kind of passion was important because no one got paid for their work. Everyone produced content and was involved because they actually loved the sport and want to see it reach a wider audience.
Another bonus of passionate contributors was the impact it left on the people who decided to follow. The people signed on to work with CWS247 ranged from law students to engineering majors. Overall, though, they all closely followed college baseball and the insight that produced came through in their work.
“I think giving fans honest opinions from people who actually watch the games and truly care about college baseball gives us some credit,” Garland said. “A lot of our bold predictions have been dead on and we don’t just follow the old dead way of covering baseball.”
The ‘old dead’ way of covering college baseball was to just report scores and limit personal interaction with fans. That certainly was not a problem for CWS247, they pride themselves on interacting with fans.
“I try to reply to fans who are being genuine in their comments on our posts,” Darling said. “Fan interaction is a big reason I think we have been able to grow so fast this year.”
That fan interaction includes directly replying with fans, making memes and hosting events where fans can listen to the contributors and even have the possibility to talk themselves.
Twitter Spaces are a major outlet for CWS247 to get fans involved. Darling said he views them as the social media equivalent to the call-in sports radio.
“Twitter Spaces are the coolest thing Twitter has ever made in my opinion,” Darling said. “It’s like a giant conference call where people can chime in and hear different voices.”
On top of the Spaces and normal feed, CWS247 has branched out into a weekly television style broadcast. That was how the Weekend Rotation was born.
“The Weekend Rotation was really brought up and developed by some of the contributors that we brought in this year,” Darling said. “We wanted to have a television or podcast version of a College Gameday for college baseball where people could tune in on Saturday and start their weekend.”
Garland, a Weekend Rotation co-host, enjoyed how the show has developed and said that the collaboration on the show has been great. It was developed by a few of the new contributors but they still insisted Darling be a part of it since he was the face of CWS247.
“I absolutely love what we are doing on a national style show like The Weekend Rotation and even people at ballparks are noticing and bring it up when they see us,” Garland said. “I really enjoy working with all of the co-hosts and I am very engaged in helping decide everything that goes into the show every week.”
Some of the most popular segments are some friendly wagers that have ranged from donning a rival’s hat to the Blazin Challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings.
While the Weekend Rotation had been a notable addition to the media lineup that was not the only idea new writers had. There were additional goals for CWS247 to innovate its content.
Mississippi State contributor Clara Fuller said she brought up how the college baseball market was mostly dominated by men. Women are heavily involved but do not get much coverage or notoriety.
She wanted to change that and Darling was definitely on board.
“We thought we could differ ourselves by having me interview women that contribute so much to the atmosphere of college baseball and contribute to what makes baseball so special,” Fuller said.
She has already completed two stories, including one with local icon Maroon Mary. That story picked up a lot of attention with Bulldog fans since she was a well-known figure in Starkville. Maroon Mary was a fixture at Mississippi State baseball games and had a large following on social media.
That ability to work as a group and collaborate has extended to more concrete avenues as well. CWS247 is a part of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. That means they contribute to the NCBWA Top 25 each week.
Darling wanted to make sure their 28 regional writers could be involved if they wanted to since they have been a major part of the account’s rise.
“Before I was a voter in the National College Baseball Writers of America Poll, we decided that we would have a cumulative poll where any of our current contributors would be able to submit a poll and we would average them together,” Darling said
A well-informed poll for CWS247 was important to Darling because it was easy to look at other polls around the country and see some were not as well informed on the sport. With so many voices it can cover a lot of ground and catch things a singular person may miss.
“We all represent a different team and that is really cool that we all have our own perspectives,” Fuller said. “It is not a biased group all from one place.”
For college baseball fans, June is the holy grail of months since that is when the regionals, super regionals and the College World Series take place. CWS247 plans to continue its content stream and should be in for a busy month.