Chad Capellman had a chance to reunite with a former colleague, Suzanne Medina, who has spent the past 15 years with Major League Baseball and where she was recently promoted to Vice President of Spanish Content Development & Operations. They talked about her early days building out the first Spanish-language sites for major league teams, and how that became a business model for her current department. They talked about how both teams — and companies outside of baseball — should approach multilingual endeavors, and how social media better connects her and her team to passionate fans around the world. She shared a great story about how years ago, her mother once mortified her in front of Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson. She also shared her take on the importance of the hiring of Kim Ng as major league baseball’s first female general manager and how Fernando Tatis, Jr. is transcending languages and cultures as he brings a welcome energy to the game.

Podcast Highlights

2:09 – On her new role and the role of her team: This year I’m really focused on creating more Spanish- first content. Looking for content partners to get our Spanish baseball content out there in front of more people, (and) get more eyeballs, reach more fans. And what we do, we know is important. It is trying to deliver content to an underserved segment of MLB’s overall audience. And we know there is a desire for this content and we know the fans are out there and we’ve just got to reach them, whether it’s through MLB app in Español or whether it’s through social media, dot com mobile, whatever the case, we’re doing our best to get our content out there and reach more baseball fans.

4:52 – On working with networked environments, like a 30-team league: Every team, their goals, internally are, it can differ from team to team. But again, there are teams where there’s a lot of similarities. And then you’ve got your big market teams with the big Latino demographics, New York, Miami, LA and there are similarities there, but there are differences because the Spanish that’s spoken out in LA is different from the Spanish that’s spoken in New York and different from the Spanish that’s spoken in Miami. So, we have to be aware of those types of things. And we work with teams to tailor their messaging that is needed for those markets. In terms of baseball coverage, we cover the games across the board, the same in traditional Spanish for all teams. But when it comes to tailoring marketing messages through their Spanish websites or their newsletters, that’s when we customize to their markets. And we really listened to the clubs to tell us what they know about their local market. And in some cases what they know about their international market. We know that, in Miami, there’s a big Cuban community there. And we know that their Venezuelan market is growing and Colombian market is growing and they’re aware of that. And so we help to tailor messages for them.

9:10 – The impact of Fernando Tatis, Jr. and why his star rose so quickly: First of all I love it. I love what he brings to the game. I have been watching more Padres games that I can count. And I’m a D-Backs fan and out West. So my D-Backs family may not like to hear that, but he is he’s young and he’s exciting and he’s got charisma and he’s got all of the things that are important when you’re trying to reach a younger audience and that’s something we are trying to do. Gen Z and the Latin X Gen Z those are two categories that are important to baseball. And for me, for what I do, he is extremely important and extremely popular. Any content that we put out there, that has his name on it, or highlight that he’s in, that content gets consumed. Every single time, every single time. But the thing that I find even more fascinating and that I really love seeing is that he’s being embraced and he’s being loved by non-Latino baseball fans. Everybody, baseball fans in general, love this guy. And they love that …part of it, I think, is that youth, but he’s exciting. And I really, really hope that he doesn’t change anything about who he is and how he reacts to hitting a home run or, I mean, my God, the slide at second the other day where he ended up in the splits. I mean they’re little things like that. It’s just what makes him who he is. And he’s just got this energy and I think that it is infectious and it’s a good thing for baseball.

14:08 – On building out Spanish-language sites in the early days, as well as a business model: It’s funny. The first thing that I was tasked with when I was hired was to help the Giants create their Spanish website. They had an immediate need. There was a sponsor involved and it was really interesting because as we worked on that site to get it going to get it launched, other clubs started finding out and other clubs were like, “Well, we want a Spanish website and how do we make this happen? So out of that, we ended up creating a business model out of that, on how to get these done and how to get Spanish sites for clubs. And as the need grew, my team grew, and it’s just, that’s kind of how it started. And then I had to create, and launch, MLBs official Spanish website, which is com. 

So yeah talk about growing pains. Yeah. Day one, help the Giants now. And then all of a sudden you’re getting calls from the Dodgers and the White Sox and Yankees, Mets, and for someone who, was a first-timer, in MLB it was just, my head was spinning and it was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m talking to the Yankees.”

It was a little bit of, like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m talking to this team. Because I’ve loved baseball since I was seven, at least seven. So to me it was just one of those. Wow. I was a kid loving baseball, playing softball. Ricky Henderson was my first autograph. And now I’m on a conference call, with the Dodgers.

15:47 – How she met Ricky Henderson and how her mom … helped: I actually got to meet him at an MLB charity. He was really nice. He did not speak in third person. And it’s a really funny story because I took my mom to this charity and I, I made her promise not to embarrass me, and we’re in this big ballroom and I turned my back for a second. Someone said, “Hey Suzy, isn’t that your mom? And so I looked across the ballroom and my mom is just trotting over there to Ricky Henderson. She’s trotting over there to meet Ricky Henderson and she just looks determined. She grabs Ricky by the shirt. I don’t know what was said, but she grabs Ricky Henderson by his shirtsleeve and drags him over to me.

And she says, “this is my daughter. Her name is Suzanne Medina. She works for MLB … I mean, my mom just goes on and starts bragging about me to Ricky Henderson, Hall of Famer. I just looked and I said, “I’m so sorry. I just I’m just so sorry.” And then my mom hands her purse to Ricky Henderson’s wife and says here, hold this. And then Ricky Henderson’s wife, just chuckles and says, “Hey, let me take a picture of the three of you. And then because of that moment, I have a picture with him, with my mom and Ricky Henderson.

18:13 – What teams or companies outside of baseball should have in place if they’re looking to extend their reach beyond English: Know who you’re trying to reach. First and foremost know your audience, and who are you trying to deliver that content to. And second of all, find people who can write, translate and translate both ways. English to Spanish and Spanish to English, which I think is very important, especially for what we do. Not only should they do it well, but they should know, if it’s for my team, it’s baseball, right? So not only was I tasked with finding the right group of people that spoke Spanish, could read and write Spanish and English translate English and Spanish, but they had to know baseball. So whatever it is if it’s badminton, you know, just throwing that out there, they’ve got to know badminton. They just the skillset, shouldn’t just be the language part. It’s gotta be what you’re focusing on as well. And finding people who know baseball terminology, terminology in Spanish was key. And that really was key because you can find people, there are plenty of people out there who know Spanish and can read and write Spanish. Who can translate. They’re out there, but those who know baseball terminology and know the game, that makes it a little harder. I feel like everyone on my team they’re even more special because of that, because they know baseball and they know the game and to take that a step further, they genuinely love the game and that makes all the difference in the world.

20:06 – How they are you approaching, and prioritizing and coordinating around social media: Well, we have a Spanish social media team that is under marketing, as well as the English social media. So they’re a separate team. But we talk every day. We collaborate often and we promote each other every single day. And when they first started this job there wasn’t the social media element to all of this, but it’s definitely had its impact and it’s brought a new awareness to what we do. It’s brought more fans to us, more eyeballs to our content and to our websites. And that’s been amazing. That’s been amazing to see. And the other side of that is that we’ve been able to literally hear them through Twitter or Facebook and see their excitement and see their passion for the game, and see where they’re from. Somebody logging on from Puebla, Mexico, or from Ponce, Puerto Rico or Caracas, Venezuela. Or even Panama, Chile, whatever, that has just blown my mind. And that has been such a cool thing to see. And makes me know that I’m doing the right thing and that makes me reemphasize we have to do a great job. There’s people out there that are reading our content, they’re following baseball and we want to keep them. As baseball fans, what to make them bigger baseball fans. And they’re really not just the stories that we do that we do translate because that’s not everything we do.

When Javier Castellano, who runs our Spanish social media team when he will share with me, the data that they’re seeing on engagement, on whatever channel and for whatever team, or maybe it’s for MLB as a whole, it’s exciting. And it’s really cool to hear what those numbers are and what the engagement is like or, especially if it’s something that we worked on together to see that our collaborative efforts resulted in this. It’s really cool. And it really brings a new element to this. And like you said, it’s not just analytics we’re looking at we’re looking at the reaction and shares and comments and things of that nature. It definitely brought another facet to everything that we do. And it’s not going away. [With] social media there’s something new all the time and it’s expanding. And to me, I feel like it, it puts us that much closer to our fans.

30:35 – On the significance of Kim Ng becoming the first female general manager in Major League Baseball: My reaction to the news was it’s about time. I met Kim years ago. She was with the Dodgers and she … Knowing her experience and talking with her she’s always had it. She deserved, more than deserved, that job. And the news, let me tell you, that news rippled through the social platforms of every young woman interested in sports. Not just every woman interested in sports, just every young woman, because you could apply what the significance of this news to any industry. I think not just sports. It’s not just baseball. But the impact that this news had, especially on young women, and I immediately went to Twitter because I wanted to see what was being said, especially from women. And I took notice of the reaction of young women saying “I have a shot. This makes me feel like my dream is possible. Whatever that dream was, it doesn’t matter if it was in sports or baseball, it doesn’t matter. But it kind of re-energized them. It kind of justified like, okay, my dream isn’t crazy. And because I’m a woman, it shouldn’t stop me. And now I’m going to go get it. I’m going to go do it. And to me, that was, that was just amazing. That was amazing to see. And I had friends, I had female colleagues that don’t work in baseball, coming to me and wanting to talk about this, and they’re not baseball fans. I try to talk baseball to them all the time. They want to talk about, The Bachelor, whatever, and I’m not into that. But they were coming to me and talking and, just telling me her story. And I’m like, “Yes, I know her story. Yes, I know this.” And they, but they were just impacted that this news just, it touched them. It had this emotional impact on them. And that was just so cool to see. And I think, like I said, the impact that I was seeing on social media and the comments I was reading from young women, I think that’s going to have a lasting effect for a really long time.