The @StickyCheck Twitter Account Is Helping to Save MLB, One Tweet at a Time

Account creator Brendan Donley discusses one of the best follows on the MLB Twitter landscape

July 13, 2021 10:46 am
Sergio Romo is inspected for foreign substances
Pitcher Sergio Romo is inspected for foreign substances by an umpire.
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty

Watching up-and-coming stars like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Shohei Ohtani tear up the diamond during the first half of the year has been great, but the highlight of the 2021 Major League Baseball season thus far came courtesy of journeyman relief pitcher Sergio Romo of the A’s.

Just after MLB began enforcing its updated policy about using banned foresign substances on the mound, 38-year-old Romo took offense when he was approached by an umpire for an inspection and fully dropped his pants as a response. It was childish, ridiculous — and entertaining as hell.

Captured on camera and immediately uploaded to the internet, Romo’s temper tantrum went viral after it was shared online and, in addition to serving as a reminder that baseball is full of big babies, helped launch one of the top accounts on the MLB Twitter landscape: MLB Foreign Substance Checks.

Started by Chicago-area native Brendan Donley with the handle @StickyCheck, the MLB Foreign Substance Checks account posts a slew of daily videos showing pitchers getting checked by umpires for doctoring the baseball with banned substances. Though not every hurler is as hotheaded as Romo during the inspection process, the account is a great follow and should be for as long as MLB keeps checking pitchers for the sticky stuff.

Donley, who’s the author of An October to Remember: 1968, about the Tigers-Cardinals World Series of ’68, as well the operator of a daily MLB newsletter, came up with the idea for the account after his phone died while he was attending a Tampa Bay Rays game and found his Twitter timeline full of mentions about Romo’s antics on the mound upon his return home.

“I got back at like midnight and saw Sergio Romo pull his pants down. I’m like, ‘Holy cow, what is going on out there?’” Donley tells InsideHook. “It was the weirdest kind of comic, bizarre baseball spectacle that I can remember. I’ve started a few other accounts before and thought right away that I should put all of this stuff in one place just have that be like the running gag. It’s an awkward look on TV with the umpires and the players, but there’s a very funny, positive, compelling angle to it too.”

Initially shocked at what he was seeing from Romo and other annoyed pitchers, Donley, who also runs MLB-centric accounts such as @AsteriskTour, @mlberrors and @mlb_fights, @bbletter and boasts well more than 400,000 followers all told, is using MLB’s sticky-substance situation to his advantage.

“I personally can’t believe this is the plan that MLB decided on,” he says. “It’s so strange to me to watch a pitcher walk off to a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium and then have to double back to take his glove off with an umpire looking over his shoulder. I’ve just never seen anything like it. It’s just this baseball theater happening right in front of you on the field. It’s good of MLB to crack down on rule-breaking or cheating or whichever you want to call it, but the absurdity of it all makes me laugh and scratch my head every single time.”

Brendan Donley runs the @StickyCheck Twitter Account I
Brendan Donley is a big player in MLB Twitter.
Brendan Donley

Absurd as they are, the sticky-stuff spectacles make for must-see TV and might be helping MLB attract eyeballs and attention, an area where the league has been struggling in recent years.

“I think any sort of viral baseball stuff getting out there and getting onto the radio or morning talk show is good for the game,” Donley says. “The more baseball that’s out there, the better for the game, within reason. I wouldn’t say the steroids scandal or the strike that happened many years ago helped baseball, but the substance checks are not as big of a thing. If there’s some element to it that’s fun and kind of funny, to me, it’s a good thing. The value of humor can’t be overstated.”

While MLB clearly doesn’t see the use of sticky stuff on the mound as a laughing matter, the biggest joke of all might be that videos of the enforcement of baseball’s hastily implemented crackdown, not the actual policy itself, could be helping to save baseball as we know it — for now.

“Baseball fans watch baseball no matter what, but people who aren’t that big into baseball may take an interest in the game if they start seeing more kinds of funny, viral baseball content,” Donley says. “It’s fun for me to do, it’s fun for other people to see and hopefully it grows interest in the game. If I can turn these side accounts into something going forward, too, then great. But I don’t know what the plan is or what the next step is. Where does this go? It’s just a guy walks off the mound, you accost him at the edge of the dugout and ask for his hat. Like that’s it? It’s funny to see something blow up, but then when the dust settles, you just start to wonder — is this just what happens now? There’s got to be a better way and maybe we’ll find it, but in the meantime, I’m happy to have a laugh at the whole thing.”

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