By ANDREW FOERCH Staff Reporter In late November, 14 of the baseball world’s most popular bloggers and social media personalities convened at Easton Diamond Sports’ headquarters facility in Thousand Oaks with no idea why they’d been invited there. Unbeknownst to them, the guests were attending a top-secret event called the Team Easton Experience, focused on the changing face of baseball media coverage, particularly as it relates to social media. Attendees included Easton’s Major League Baseball brand ambassadors Ramon Laureano, centerfielder for the Oakland Athletics, and Delino DeShields, centerfielder for the Cleveland Indians, as well as independent baseball media commentators Chris Rose, Josh Shapiro, Jake Storiale, Jared Carrabis, Dallas Braden and others. “It’s really part of a new approach that we have from a brand marketing standpoint,” Austin Hurwitz, Easton’s director of brand and digital marketing, told the Business Journal. “We spent the better part of last year trying to find influencers and creators who were interested in creating great, positive stories of the game. Our goal was to extend invitations, start to get to know them and their values … and slowly, organically connect.” Traditionally known as a maker and seller of baseball equipment, mainly bats, Easton now looks to raise its profile as a storytelling vehicle for the sport, whether that means supporting indie content creators by helping them secure resources or access they wouldn’t get otherwise or creating content of its own. Evidently, by positioning itself next to these creators and the stories they tell, Easton hopes to increase brand awareness and push itself further into the current culture of the national pastime. The full-day Team Easton Experience comprised a tour of the company’s R&D laboratory and bat-making factory, product demos, a few friendly home run derbies and a top-golf-esque batting competition for charity — with the guests streaming and posting on their personal social media accounts all the while. But the day’s centerpiece was a roundtable discussion on the future of baseball social media coverage moderated by Los Angeles Times sports columnist Arash Markazi. “Everybody shared how they’d love to be able to do more things, but the support just isn’t there. A lot of brands are looking for quid pro quo,” said Hurwitz, summarizing the summit. He acknowledged the barrier to entry in sports media is as low as it has ever been, but conceded, “There are some challenges to not being an official, licensed partner (of Major League Baseball), and issues with access and what content they can and can’t do. … But there are so many more aspects of the game than what happens on the field at the Major League level.” He cited the videos and livestreams produced at the Team Easton Experience as great examples of how to create good content without support from major news outlets or the MLB. Hurwitz lamented Easton can’t do this sort of event on a regular basis, but said it’s likely the company will host something similar – but with a different focus – next year.