Orioles fans know that there hasn't been much to get excited about regarding their team in sometime. Non-Orioles fans might have known that too if it came to their attention, but the O's have been largely forgotten by the baseball community over the past decade. Forgotten, that is, until they drafted a young man from Georgia Tech by the name of Matt Wieters. Before playing a day in professional baseball, Wieters was being dubbed "Mauer with Power" and projected to be one of the greatest catchers of all time. The hype was overwhelming and Matt Wieters was practically a legend when he stepped onto the field at Camden Yards on May 29th, 2009. What other rookie gets a standing ovation for fielding a bunt and has to step out of the batters box in his first career at-bat to acknowledge the screaming fans?
Making the most of this once in a lifetime hysteria, Daniel Moroz and Ian Oland created the Matt Wieters Facts website. You all know it. You all love it (unless you're birdman). Developed in the style of the Chuck Norris facts that make some people (including me) groan, the site took off. It gained attention from national media and, in my opinion, transcended its Chuck Norris-like beginnings thanks to the wit and brilliance of not only Ian and Daniel, but of the fans who contributed their own facts.
Two of my favorites:
Matt Wieters Can And Does Assume The Double Play.
Matt Wieters' At Bat Music Is A Moment Of Silence. For The Pitcher.
Daniel and Ian took some time to give us the juicy details on Matt Wieters Facts:
I mean, wow. This got pretty big, didn't it? How did it get started?
Daniel Moroz: I noticed that every time someone wrote a story about Wieters about whether or not to bring him up, they would always say something ridiculous about how good he's going to be, something really hyperbolic, and the comment sections often just devolved into these kinds of humorous comments. So I decided to gather all these together and put them on a blog for comedic reading. Well, people liked it and started linking to it and at one point, Baseball America interviewed Wieters, and they asked him if he had seen this site (he said he hadn't), which resulted in a lot of hits. I showed Ian, and he - being a talented graphic designer and noting the potential in the site - decided to redesign it to bring the appearance up on par with the content.
The site was really about the fans and their submissions though - giving them something to be excited about with regards to the Orioles. When it was announced that Wieters was being called up, things really exploded as we were being mentioned and linked to in every other story about him. I don't remember seeing that level of enthusiasm from the fan-base for quite a while. It was pretty awesome.
Ian Oland: When I first saw Matt Wieters Facts in its infant stages - which at that point was a collection of facts Daniel had put together in this hideous orange and black blogger template he did himself - I couldn't stop laughing. The facts were hilarious, and the site's design was pretty bad. Like bad, bad. Sorry Daniel!
When he told me that the site got a lot more hits than the Frost King Baseball Blog he used to write to pretty religiously, I kinda knew something was brewing out there and that the interest in Wieters was ungodly high. So it didn't really surprise me at all when Baseball America asked Wieters about the site. But I still definitely had that "OMG, this is really happening to my best friend right now" feeling and really wanted to help him make the site even more of a success.
I had seen Matt Wieters' first professional game in my hometown of Frederick a few years ago, and that game he hit two homeruns from both sides of the plate and just looked like a future superstar. So if anyone was worth hundreds of hours of my time, it was him. He had been gracious to sign an autograph for me in Frederick after that first game, and I really ended up following his career closely. He's such a humble guy; he definitely deserves all the attention.
So after I designed the site, got it functional, and made the Hall of Fame Postcard of him, I initially was shocked to see how many Forums linked to our site and commented so positively. It made me feel so good that I could contribute something to the Orioles fanbase that made everyone so happy. Because let's face it, it's been a long 15 years of despair. We all needed something to get excited about.
When the major websites - Big League Stew, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, LA Times, etc - linked to our site, it really made me feel fortunate. And then when he debuted, and the radio stations talked about our facts, ESPN referenced the site on SportsCenter, and Keith Law contacted us, I think I was just overjoyed. It's been a great ride and it's given me a ton of confidence in my ability. And hopefully now, people visit Daniel's professional Orioles Blog "Camden Crazies" and really take him seriously as a blogger. He is extremely talented and people are lucky he spends his time on the Orioles. He's a gifted writer.
Have you ever been out and seen someone wearing a MWF shirt? Because that would be awesome.
Daniel Moroz: When we had MWF Day at the Yard we so a few people, but I've never been out and about and seen that. Small sample size though. We did get a picture sent over from Keith Law (of ESPN) with him in his "Sliced Bread" shirt. He's the one who came up with the "Sliced Bread Is Actually The Best Thing Since Matt Wieters" fact, and he actually contacted us about it when he realized we put it up on the site and made a shirt of it. He was very cool about it, and the image of him in the shirt holding a piece of bread is quite amusing. Personally speaking, talking to him (via email) was probably the most exciting part about all of this for me.
Ian Oland: The first time I saw somebody in one of our Matt Wieters Facts shirts was actually via a photograph from one of our biggest fans, Timmy Anderson. Way back when, we actually ran a contest where the first person who got the Hall Of Fame Postcard I designed signed by Matt Wieters with photographic evidence would win a free t-shirt. So he got me the photo and I sent him a free shirt. Awesome right? Well, a few weeks later, Timmy met Wieters again, but this time wearing the shirt I had sent him previously. So he sent that to me and I put it up on our Facebook Fan Page (please join!!) in the photos section. Later, when I went to "Matt Wieters Facts Day" at the yard with Daniel, i saw maybe 10 or 12 people wearing our shirts. I was taken aback. As an artist, there's no greater compliment.
Lately, we've also had other fans buying shirts and sending us photos in them via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). That's been awesome. If there's anyone else out there who has photos of themselves in one of our shirts, please email us it over!
What is your favorite Matt Wieters Fact?
Daniel Moroz: I'm partial to "Matt Wieters Sometimes Impatiently Homers From The On Deck Circle". I really like the addition of the adverb "impatiently" for some reason.
Ian Oland: My favorite - since I'm more of a vulgar, unrefined individual - is "Matt Wieters went to the US Virgin Islands on Vacation. They are now referred to as "The Islands."
Also another favorite is: "Matt Wieters picked himself to be the best man at his wedding. It was his only option." They are all great though. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the site over the last year!