Wilfrid Laurier University graduate Alykhan Ravjiani (BBA '14) is taking things “play by play” during COVID-19. As the social community manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, Ravjiani is part of the team behind the Major League Baseball club’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Laurier Campus magazine caught up with Ravjiani to discuss his role with the team and the challenges – and triumphs – of working in professional sports communications amid a pandemic.
A: Everybody is excited that we’re back to playing baseball, but this season is very different than previous ones. The pandemic has thrown us a lot of curveballs, so we’re taking things day by day and adapting as we go. Covering Blue Jays games without fans in the stadiums is definitely different, but our fans continue to show their love and support for the team in big ways online – and it’s incredible! We all know there are bigger things at play right now, and we want to ensure that we’re doing our part on and off the field. The incredible team I work with – our manager Simone Gervais, content creators Nico Canavo and Craig Mazerall, as well as our marketing team – have all helped make that happen.
A: One of the best things about working with social media is the ability to adapt as needed. When COVID-19 suspended spring training and delayed the season’s start, we were able to pivot and put Blue Jays players in front of fans in meaningful and engaging ways. Players participated in fan question and answer sessions on Zoom, led online workouts at home and shared elements of their lives outside of baseball on Instagram.
Sharing standout moments in franchise history was also a great way to engage with fans during the absence of real-time baseball. Sportsnet, the Blue Jays’ broadcast network, aired the 1992 and 1993 World Series and we live-tweeted the games. Fans who were with us during those championship years could relive the excitement while our younger fan base, like those who came on board during the Blue Jays 2015 post-season run, could experience iconic moments in the team’s history as they unfolded in ‘real time.’
Posting fan-generated content continues to be a big part of our engagement strategy. Fans are the heartbeat of the team and their energy and input are crucial. We officially kicked off the Blue Jays season on social media with fan-generated content – the Virtual First Pitch – on Opening Day and have continued to incorporate fan content and callouts. With or without a pandemic, when fans take the time to engage with us in positive ways online, we like to acknowledge it and reciprocate.
A: The team is in an exciting phase and there is a lot of optimism for what the Blue Jays are building, as there should be. We have a solid core of young players and veterans to guide them, and it’s going to be exciting to watch. Hopefully this is the start of something special and the Blue Jays players can lift up that shiny World Series Trophy once again. Nothing would beat that.
A: My Laurier experience shaped me in so many ways. Laurier let me be who I am. I always felt welcome, especially as a business student taking elective courses in political science and religion and culture. My professors were also instrumental. Laura Allan, assistant professor in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, was a mentor to me. I remember standing in line for coffee with her and having a really powerful conversation. She told me I could do anything, but that I was the one who would have to do it. No one could put in the work but me. That’s what I love about Laurier – the community, connection and support. You could find wisdom in so many places at Laurier. It didn't always have to come from inside the classroom.
A: I did and I didn’t. I loved being in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Laurier and by the end of my graduating year, I had a great job offer from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). The position was perfect for a new graduate and was based in downtown Toronto, so I would be close to my family and friends in Mississauga. But I always wanted to work in sports. I had written for MLBtraderumours.com and established some great connections with writers who encouraged me to pursue the sports journalism program at Centennial College after graduation. ‘I’ll give it a year and see where things go,’ I told myself, so I declined the offer with RBC. The woman who offered me the position said I was the first one to ever turn it down. As I hung up the phone I thought, ‘Well, there’s a first time for everything, right?’
– Alykhan Ravjiani
The program’s internships led to opportunities managing social media for the 2015 Rogers Cup and covering parts of the Pan American Games for the National Post and Postmedia Network. My final internship was with the Toronto Raptors. I began that role one year to the day I declined the position with RBC, which seemed serendipitous. Working for the Raptors organization was great, and it was incredible to see some of my friends and former colleagues be part of the team’s championship season.
In 2016, I interned with Major League Baseball writing for BlueJays.com. I had the incredible opportunity to write and learn alongside former Blue Jays reporter and Toronto Star reporter Gregor Chisolm, Sportsnet columnist Shi Davidi and freelance baseball writer John Lott. Those three – the best baseball writers in the business – helped me break into baseball. By the end of 2016, I was hired as the in-game coordinator for the Blue Jays, posting live updates and pre- and post-game content to the team’s social media accounts. In 2018, the social community manager role became available – and the rest is history. I’ve been really fortunate and still can’t believe I get to do this every day. It’s a dream come true!
A: Don't be afraid to explore. It's easy to get stuck in the ‘what we should do’ box, but if you bet on yourself and put in the work, the sky is your limit. I learned that head on and if I hadn’t, I might still be wondering ‘what if?’