June 17, 2011


Brandon Phillips: #adifferentidentity: Cincinnati Reds second baseman using Twitter to connect with fans -- and on the field (Amy K. Nelson, 6/16/11, ESPN.com)

It's a Friday afternoon in late March, and Rachel and Dave Zahniser sit nervously in a hotel lobby, their eyes darting, looking to the door constantly. Is this real -- will their host show? And how are they supposed to act if he does?

Rachel clasps her hands as Dave shakes his head, thinking about how in the early morning rush to the airport, he forgot his cellphone in Kentucky. "Stupid," he says. Rachel and Dave, huge Cincinnati Reds fans, are waiting for second baseman Brandon Phillips to walk through that lobby door.

Phillips paid for the couple to fly from Covington, Ky., put them up at the hotel and got them game tickets after Rachel won a trivia contest Phillips hosted on his Twitter page. The tweeted question: "What's my favorite drink?" Rachel, knowing Phillips doesn't drink alcohol, guessed correctly first: milk. #Winner.

A few hours later, @DatDudeBP began following her on Twitter, and they began sending direct messages to one another. Phillips promised game tickets and that he'd hang out with the couple off the field. Rachel, 38, and husband Dave, 46, flew in on this Friday morning, went straight to the spring training game and found their seats behind the Reds' dugout.

Phillips won't play in the game, and the couple will not even see him at the ballpark. But a few hours later, Phillips calls Rachel and tells her to meet him in the hotel lobby. Just after 6 p.m., Phillips, alone, walks through the sliding doors and greets both of them with an enormous smile.

"Y'all hungry?" he says as he embraces them.

Meet Brandon Phillips: a two-time Gold Glove winner and All-Star for the Reds who, in baseball circles, has carried questions about his dedication to the game and questions about whether he's a good teammate because of how he plays and what he says.

Meet @DatDudeBP: a two-time Gold Glove winner and All-Star for the Reds who tells it like it is and has engaged fans like no other ballplayer through Twitter this season, a move that initially had his general manager, manager and some teammates wary about what they might have to clean up.

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Posted by at June 17, 2011 5:47 AM

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