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Rick Stephenson Interview
Published: Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Following the launch of the new BaseballWebTV.com, Perfect Game had a chance to talk with BaseballWebTV co-founder Rick Stephenson about the new site and the movies he produced, Prospect and Showcase
PG: Tell us about what went into the making of the new BaseballWebTV?
RS: With the old version of BaseballWebTV we had a powerful system with a lot of information and player video, but it was just too hard to use. There were scouts and college coaches using it regularly, but it was nowhere near as popular as it should have been. My brother Matt and I are responsible for the website side of it. We talked with Skillshow, who manages BaseballWebTV.com, and the scouts at Perfect Game and came up with a plan that would make the player videos and instructional content easier to find on the site. We worked on the new site for six months and launched it in October.
PG: What has the reaction been like to the new site?
RS: The difference has been staggering. Before the launch, we probably had 5 or 6 new college coaches and pro scouts coming to the site each week. The first week we launched the new site, we had 75 new college coaches and scouts sign up. That’s an amazing jump and it has increased every week since. The user numbers have also gone through the roof. Traffic is up 2000% from the same time last year. It really proves that Perfect Game was ahead of the curve in deciding to support BaseballWebTV.com so early in the internet video era.
PG: How did BaseballWebTV.com get started?
RS: In 2004, I produced and directed a baseball movie called Prospect. It is an instructional documentary about the mental game of baseball and how guys like David Wright became superstars when there are players out there with the same level of talent who never make it to the big leagues. I sent a copy to Perfect Game and they liked it and thought it would help players. Then I traveled to a Perfect Game event and spent some time talking to parents and players, as well as all the guys at Perfect Game. The recruiting and showcase process is tricky and can be overwhelming. I remember going through it and not knowing anything about what I was getting myself into. We decided to make another film called Showcase about ways to gain exposure to college coaches and scouts. After that, we got together with Skillshow, who makes the best recruiting videos available, and decided to launch BaseballWebTV.com. The first few years were a struggle but we never stopped believing in the potential of BaseballWebTV, and Perfect Game showed tremendous foresight when it comes to promoting players.
PG: Give us a rundown of the kinds of videos on BaseballWebTV.
BaseballWebTV has three main categories of content. There is the player video which are skills clips of every player that goes to a Perfect Game showcase. A coach or scout can access site for free, type in the player’s name or go to a particular showcase and pull up the video of his 60 yard dash, batting practice, infield, outfield, catching, or pitching. It significantly increases the amount of exposure every player gets to college coaches and scouts, in addition to what they have gained by attending a Perfect Game showcase. It is a small taste of what Skillshow can do with their fully edited skills videos.
Then there is instructional content from scouts and coaches. This ranges from telling parents what to say and what not to say around college coaches and scouts to base-running tips. There are also player reports and high school baseball specials that keep you up to date on the national baseball scene.
We are currently preparing to upload extensive content from the documentary I made, Prospect. I remember when I first released the movie and went out to baseball events to promote it. Players and parents were skeptical about what a DVD could do for them. The truth is that every single player who even thinks he might want to play beyond high school needs to see this film. We’ve had several former major leaguers use the film with kids and write to express how well the movie communicates what players need to know as they move up to the next level. The support amongst the pro scouting community and college coaches was also overwhelming. It’s really something that high school players need to see and I’m excited to bring parts of it to BaseballWebTV.com.
Soon after that we will be uploading clips from the second movie Showcase.
PG: Where do you see the future of BaseballWebTV heading?
RS: It’s really exciting to think about. I feel like we’ve really just started with the new site. We still have tons of features we want to add and Skillshow and Perfect Game brings new ideas to the table every day. In the near term we are going to add an advanced search capability that will allow scouts and coaches to find players by position, graduation year, state, and a bunch of other variables. We also want to tie in better with Skillshow’s ACT system, which is a popular way college coaches keep up with players they’re tracking. There are also some exciting ideas about how to tie in with travel team websites and do everything we can to promote players. We’re on the right track. Now it’s just a matter of staying focused and continuing to get better as we move forward.
Rick Stephenson is the producer of Prospect and Showcase as well as a co-founder of BaseballWebTV.com. He played college baseball at East Carolina University and The College of William and Mary.
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