Popular Canadian Baseball Web Site Announces Relaunch

Friday, February 18 2005 @ 08:00 PM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Upgrades Ensure Continued High Quality Content

February 19, 2005

TORONTO -- You know how some big league ballplayers will kick the chalk line around to re-draw the batter's box to better fit what they want as they step to the plate? Well, it's time for Batter's Box, formerly "Batter's Box Baseball Blog," to kick the technical chalk a little bit, expand its virtual space and continue to grow into its All-Star potential.

"We're pleased to present a key voice for baseball fans in Canada, and as our readership has grown, around the world" said Batter's Box General Manager Jordan Furlong. "Because of our Canadian roots and Toronto home base, the content on the site can focus on the Toronto Blue Jays. But we bring much more to the plate than that," he said.

Furlong noted that four members of the regular "roster" of contributors to Batter's Box have been fantasy baseball columnists for ESPN.com, while several others are currently contributors to the popular Hardball Times site.

Batter's Box has also proved a stopdown for Blue Jays players throughout the organization, as in its two-plus years online, the site has featured exclusive interviews with David Bush, Gabe Gross, Jason Frasor, Reed Johnson, Aaron Hill and Russ Adams, ex-Jay Kevin Cash and brand new Jay Spike Lundberg, among others.

Front office types have also "stopped by Da Box" to chat, including General Manager J.P. Ricciardi, Assistant GM Keith Law, Director of Player Development Dick Scott and Scouting Director Jon Lalonde, as well as current field manager John Gibbons and coaches Brian Butterfield, Gil Patterson and Mike Barnett.

Other interview subjects have included Richard Griffin and Geoff Baker of the Toronto Star, Spencer Fordin of BlueJays.com, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com and minor league guru John Sickels, formerly of ESPN.com, not to mention Jays radio voice Mike Wilner. Both Fordin and Wilner have also been regular visitors to "Da Box," posting unsolicited commentary on any number of topics.

"Stringing all the names together like that really demonstrates the impact that Batter's Box has had on actually shaping baseball from a Canadian perspective online," noted Furlong.

Site Growth Leads to Technical Upgrade
Over the last two years, batter's Box has experienced significant increases in traffic, nearing a total of 1.7 million visitors so far. It's such a wide and frankly unexpected growth, that according to Furlong, "We've lost some of our original feeling of community. We think implementing a registration system will help bring a little of that back, regardless of our current size."

To that end, beginning today, Batter's Box will operate using new software and present a slightly different look. As a result, there will be a number of new features and, as site technical director Joe Drew said, "some additional bells and whistles. We've been calling the new site 'Batter's Box 3.0' and we're hoping it will be the springboard to something better and more interesting -- a better-looking site with more original content and more writing that's worth reading. It will look similar to what we have now," said Drew. "Just better. We're not referring to it as an 'upgrade' just for kicks."

The registration process will be simple; all it requires is a valid e-mail address. Anyone who chooses not to register will still be able to read the site, so habitual "lurkers" need not register at all unless they choose to, or if they eventually decide to post a comment or question, since only registered members will be able to do so. "We've always respected our users' privacy," said Drew, "And rest assured, we will continue to do so. Batter's Box will never release e-mail addresses, or any other information, to anyone -- for any reason at all -- without a registrant's express permission.

The upgrade will also benefit the Batter's Box's regular contributors. "Suffice to say we've outgrown our current software platform," said Drew. "It's become difficult to use. This will fix that."

A New Approach: No Spam, No Ads, More Content
The upgrade will provide several important new features to Batter's Box. The process of registration, for instance, will virtually eliminate spam and troll advertising posts -- Batter's Box has always been a non-profit publication staffed entirely by volunteers and does not solicit or accept advertising.

"Registration will also eliminate the occasional problem any site like ours will have with 'spoofing' -- someone posting information while posing as another person," said Batter's Box co-manager Craig Burley. "And of course, it addresses the similar, entirely innocent problem we see more and more as our traffic grows -- that of there being two or more posters with the same or similar names," he said. "And, because many consistently excellent story ideas have come from visitors," added Burley, "registration will also allow the editorial staff to contact individual posters when necessary."

Furlong added, "Essentially, we're changing our approach to the site. What we want is a constructive, literate, intelligent environment that's interesting, insightful and fun."

Batter's Box co-managing editor Mike Moffatt added, "The changes you'll notice when we upgrade the site will be that it's cleaner, better-looking and richer in content. We intend to continue the site's evolution from our humble beginnings as a simple one-man 'baseball blog' to a full-scale online baseball commentary and analysis publication."

Reflecting that continuing shift, noted Moffatt, is a slight change to the name of the site. "We have called ourselves Batter's Box Baseball Blog," he said, "in part probably because 'blog' is the hot term in Internet publishing these days." However, added Furlong, "We publish as least as much quality original content as most printed baseball publications, and our online home allows us the key additional element of instant and interactive feedback from our readership." Combining those two elements of the site's evolution, the Batter's Box editorial team has re-christened the publication Batter's Box Interactive Magazine.

Pitchers and Catchers ... and a Brand New Batter's Box
The relaunch is set for today, February 19 -- the same day Toronto Blue Jay pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Dunedin. The symbolism of the date chosen was not lost on the Batter's Box staff.

"In the same way a young and hopeful team like the Blue Jays looks forward to the first 'thwack' of the ball into a mitt in Spring Training, we look forward to welcoming all our high-quality regulars, and many new faces, back to the new and improved Batter's Box," said Furlong. "We appreciate everyone's patronage of the past few years and thank you all for your patience during the brief transition time necessary for the technical upgrade." No new content was added to Batter's Box, nor were new comments from visitors published, for a six-day period while the site was upgraded and the new software and interface installed.

Future "upgrades" to the site are scheduled to primarily deal with providing still more new content, as Batter's Box offers its second annual detailed team preview for every squad in the majors and follows that with bi-monthly divisional updates for each of the six pennant races, to accompany the continuing game threads and new next-day game reports for each Blue Jay contest.

Also in the works are a Photo of the Week from Box staff photographer Aaron Reynolds, another in-depth look at the annual amateur player draft, a weekly "Notes from Nowhere" feature by Box columnist and West Coast correspondent John Gizzi; a continuation of the popular "Baseball's Hall of Names" whimsical tour of the history of the Great Game; and much more. "We expect to have more than 20 original articles each week, and at least one every day," said Moffatt.

Jonathan Morton, another co-managing editor of the site, added, "Included in that total will again be a daily minor league report for the Blue Jays system. We began providing occasional minor league updates in 2003," he said, "but they were so popular, we went daily last season -- we heard from the family members of a number of minor league players, in fact, and received positive feedback from the Blue Jays organization itself. Now in the new Batter's Box, we'll be providing the same daily updates and end-of-year reviews we did in 2004, but also team previews and monthly summary updates for all six farm teams. We wanted to provide more of what our readership has come to expect from us."

In many ways, that's the bottom line for the upgrade to the "new" Batter's Box ... providing more quality baseball news and analysis -- from a Canadian perspective.

Batter's Box Interactive Magazine is a not-for--profit Web site founded in October 2002 by Kent "Coach" Williams. Though its primary focus has been Toronto Blue Jays baseball, Batter's Box has more than a dozen contributing authors from both Canada and the United States, from Toronto and New York to Texas and Washington state, and hundreds of regular contributors. Visit Batter's Box free on the Web at http://www.battersbox.ca.

Jordan Furlong, General Manager

Mick Doherty, Manager-Media Relations

For Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Baseball News & Analysis From a Canadian Perspective