With the current state of baseball and the world – and just because we just think it’s a neat idea – we are doing a series on “the glue guys” of the baseball world, people who aren’t players or a part of teams but who are important connectors and folks who amplify the joy of baseball for others.
Next up, is @CespedesFamlyBBQ (AKA, the baseball content juggernaut founded by high school buddies, Jacob Mintz and Jordan Shusterman). Jake was good enough to sit down with us to talk about their site and baseball, below!
Good Men Project Sports:
When did you start doing what it is you do (i.e., @CespedesFamilyBBQ) and why?
Here’s the basic backstory:
Jordan and I started Céspedes Family Barbecue back in high school during our senior year. It was December of 2012. We’d been friends for a while and were just constantly talking to one another about the game, making dumb jokes, trying to make one another laugh, so eventually we just decided to start writing it all down.
We loved Yoenis Céspedes and thought his iconic workout video featuring the roasted pig, a video that he shared with all thirty MLB teams, was incredible. So we decided to name it after him. Never thought we’d make it big enough to have to explain it to anyone.
We blogged on our website for about 6 months with absolutely no following.
Then at a Baseball Prospectus event in July 2013 we handed a writer there a business card with Yoenis Céspedes’ face on it. He thought it was funny and tweeted about it. We went from 80 followers to 800 that week, and it’s just kinda snowballed since.
We started working at Cut4 right out of college in 2017, and we spent two years there. Then last year we hopped over to DAZN to host their whip-around baseball show ChangeUp, and we’ll go back to that whenever MLB returns.
We’ve also just announced that we’re starting a podcast for The Ringer called the Baseball BBQ. Whenever games come back we’ll cover the regular ebb and flow of a season with our typical voice, but for now each episode will be a deep dive into a thing we love about the sport.
What do you think @CespedesFamilyBBQ brings to the baseball fan-base – why has it been so successful?
I think the number one thing we bring to people is baseball joy.
We started doing this because we love it, and we still do it because we love it.
I think in sports commentary, but especially baseball commentary, people take this too seriously and try to overanalyze.
We can break down a dude’s swing to if we want, but I like to think we’re good at what we do because we can amplify and convey the genuine joy that baseball brings us.
my biggest takeaway from this Bartolo graphic from today’s game is that his previous 10 teams were clearly not asking the right questions pic.twitter.com/Ucsp2XZm01
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) September 1, 2017
Spreading that joy to as many people as possible is really important to us and is at the core of what we do.
How do you do it? How much time do you put into it?
That’s honestly changed a lot. Back in college, we were watching baseball games like six nights a week with Twitter open, screen-capping anything silly we could find, just word-vomiting stuff onto Twitter. At that time (from 2013-2017) we were doing a podcast about once a week over Skype from our respective colleges, and we were putting a lot of time into that as well. We were certainly on the lookout for anything and everything baseball.
Nowadays, I’m certainly less obsessed about making sure to capture every moment from an average Wednesday night slate and more focused on the big picture stuff. We’ll Live Tweet big games, or Sunday night games, or – more recently – KBO Opening Day (!), but there’s less of that now than there used to be.
Aaron Altherr launches his first KBO dinger. Moonshot to left field. Then he comes into the dugout, gets the silent treatment so just starts dabbing alone. pic.twitter.com/e3ievdY7wt
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 6, 2020
This is Baek-ho Kang smacking himself a double. He’s basically KBO Rafael Devers/Juan Soto. Only 20 years old and already a top 10 hitter in the league.
Absolutely mammoth leg kick too. Definitely a name to know. pic.twitter.com/ksNOHS171f
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 8, 2020
Now I’d say most of our time is spent coming up with bigger picture ideas for DAZN and another project we’ll be announcing pretty soon. During quarantine, things have obviously been a bit different so we’ve doing Backyard Baseball live streams on Twitch and this MLB The Show show.
We’ve also been working hard developing The Ringer podcast behind the scenes, and now that’ll be our main focus moving forward.
What is your “real” job and how long have you been involved in the game of baseball?
We’ve got hired right out of college, so we’ve been lucky enough that making silly baseball stuff is the only job we’ve known in adulthood.
I worked coaching at a baseball camp for all of high school and college in the summers and Jordan worked at a cake shop for a while in high school, but thankfully we’ve made a living out of doing this.
Really insane and fortunate every time i think about it!
Why baseball for you? What is it about the game of baseball that you love? What makes it bigger than ‘just a game’ for you?
For me, it’s always been baseball. I was born the day Cal Ripken tied Lou Gehrig’s record in 1995 and my Mom is from Baltimore, grew up a huge O’s fan, and her mom left the hospital when my mom was in labor with me because she had tickets to go see Cal.
I spent my childhood throwing a ball against the side of my house and played all the way through college. Baseball has just always given me structure and made me feel comfortable. I’m terrible at languages (I’ve been trying and failing to learn Spanish for a few years now); to me baseball feels like a language that I know like the back of my hand.
I know Jordan was a big basketball guy there for a bit (he fell in love with Tracy McGrady back in the day), but he got really into Jeff Sullivan’s writing at Lookout Landing in high school and became a huge Mariners fan. He’s been hooked since.
One thing about baseball that you would change and one thing that you would never change?
The biggest thing I’d change — and this is super vague I know — is outdated clubhouse culture that restricts players from being themselves. Not only does it lead to players keeping their personalities covered on the field, but I also think it causes a lot of inequities in the clubhouse in regards to black and latin players.
Let guys have fun, stop upholding some convoluted sense of tradition that makes the game feel crusty and inaccessible. Changing this attitude will take time, but the biggest way to push it forward is to increase the diversity across the board in positions of power in clubhouses and in teams.
I spent two months in the Dominican Republic, and the players there feel comfortable being themselves because the people in charge of the teams create a different team environment. So it is possible.
You want to capture the joy of global baseball? Hire some of those people to help run MLB teams, you can’t just copy and paste stuff.
What would I never change?
Obviously there are way fewer than there used to be, but in my head, when I think about being at a game it’s on a sunny afternoon. I think we need more day games and we gotta keep day games around. Something about the crisp sun that just makes baseball better.
Any ideas for what types of things baseball can do to better connect to its fans?
I think from the media perspective the sport has the resources and the people in place to succeed, both within the league and from grassroots fan content on the outside.
But I think baseball, media and clubhouse, needs to do better at creating an environment that is welcoming and truly accepting of everyone. Because baseball’s past is super-intertwined with the history of racism and racial inequality in this country, that’s a big hill to climb. If you want to diversify the fan base, that starts with making minority players feel comfortable being themselves, which hasn’t always been the case.
For this Series, we are focusing on people like yourself who aren’t players or a part of teams but who are important connectors, people who amplify the joy of baseball for others.
If I asked you to name one or two of those people, who would you name and why?
People who come to mind for this:
Boog Sciambi (no one I know is more beloved), Jason Benetti, Andrew McCutchen, Mike Petriello, Clinton Yates, Baseball Brit (Joey Mellows), Jayson Stark, Stephen Nelson, Ryan Dempster, CC Sabathia, and David Ross.
Photo Credit: @CespedesBBQ (screencap)