ANNA MARIA — Anita Dotterweich will be at McKechnie Field on Wednesday, taking in a Bradenton Marauders game.
If you see her, buy her a snack. Or something to drink. Or simply extend a hand and say, “Thank you.”
She’s the reason you got a free ticket to that night’s game against the Brevard County Manatees.
The Marauders ran a promotion on their Facebook page promising something special if the team got 2,500 Facebook fans. Or, in layman’s terms, 2,500 people who went to the team’s page and clicked the “Like” button.
Dotterweich happened to be lucky No. 2,500, which means all the team’s fans on Facebook will get into Wednesday’s game free. It’s a perfect match — Dotterweich is originally from Pittsburgh, home to the Pirates, the Marauders’ parent club, and moved to Holmes Beach in 1980.
She remembers going to Pirates games at Forbes Field and cheering on Roberto Clemente, her favorite player.
“Clemente was my idol,” Dotterweich said Thursday, while working her part-time shift at the Anna Maria City Pier bait shop. “He was the one.”
Yet Dotterweich wasn’t trying to make history. A friend of hers, Heidi Smith, is a big-time Marauders fan who, little by little, has turned Dotterweich on to the high Single-A baseball team, which competes in the Florida State League.
In fact, when Dotterweich was told Thursday that she was the reason the Marauders’ Facebook friends were getting into McKechnie Field for free — as of Friday, there were 2,598 of them — she was surprised.
“I didn’t know that,” she said.
Nonetheless, being lucky has its advantages — Dotterweich will throw out Wednesday’s ceremonial first pitch. She plans on practicing at a baseball field near her house first.
The Facebook promotion was designed to reward the team’s fans who have been supportive all season, said Trevor Gooby, the Pirates director of Florida operations. All 12 of the teams in FSL have Facebook pages, and the Marauders have the second-most fans, trailing only the Tampa Yankees (3,214).
While that interest hasn’t done much at the box office — the Marauders are averaging 838 fans, second-lowest in the league — the page has become a meeting place for the fans and a billboard for the team and some of its players.
Updates during away games — including rainouts and rain delays — are often posted on the Facebook site, as are links to stories on the Marauders by various members of the media. And days after star catcher Tony Sanchez was hit by a pitch and underwent surgery on his fractured jaw, he posted a letter on Facebook updating fans on his progress and thanking them for their support.
Fellow catcher Eric Fryer, who was hit by a pitch in the eye, did the same thing.
“Even the players and their families have been involved,” said Kelly Keenan, president of CreatingARipple.com, a marketing consulting and social media/new media company that helps maintain the Marauders’ page.
Dan Wolfert, the Marauders general manager, used the site to announce the birth of his daughter, and even included pictures.
“Our Facebook page has given us a direct link to communicate with fans. When we began starting to talk about moving a team to Bradenton, we knew we needed to generate excitement about minor league baseball,” Gooby said. “We reviewed what other teams did to promote their teams and saw that having an active and informative social media presence was important. We then made it a goal to create a site that would be informative but also a site that our fans could feel like they were a part of the team.”
Now it’s reached people like Dotterweich, who said she plans on following the Marauders closer this season.
And who knows? There may be another lucky Facebook fan in the future.
“We are proud of the support we have received, and we will look to work with our sponsors on more Facebook promotions,” Gooby said. “I envision a weekly promotion in 2011 and Facebook-only events. It is a great tool for us to thank our fans for their constant support.”