Their sons are stars on the field, but these moms are stars on social media

May 8th, 2022

Back in mid-March, Michelle Castellanos was searching her son’s name on Twitter, as she often does, when she came across a post proclaiming that Nick -- at the time a free agent -- would be a perfect fit for the Phillies.

Michelle was grateful for the post’s positivity about her son, so, from her account @michcast05, she gave it a like.

“There’s no ‘thank you’ button,” she says now. “There’s only a ‘like’ button.”

Well, that was the “like” heard ‘round the Phillies Twitter universe.

People took a mom’s appreciation as confirmation that Castellanos must have already come to terms on an as-yet-unannounced pact with the Phils. And Michelle further fueled the speculation by liking a few other replies from Phillies fans about how much their club wanted and needed Nick.

Only one problem: Michelle had absolutely no idea Nick and the Phillies really were close on a five-year pact. It was not until the next day that Nick gave her the good news, and firm reports of the deal came out later that night.

Michelle had scooped every MLB reporter, entirely by accident.

“When people say beautiful things about my kids,” she says, “I will always like it.”

Michelle’s story is evidence of how a mother’s unwavering love and Twitter’s penchant for impetuousness can create confusion. And when the mom of a Major Leaguer enters that particular platform, she unfortunately runs the risk of seeing some not-so-beautiful things said about her son.

But a select few moms have embraced all the potential hazards of that particular platform in order to celebrate their sons with us. They invite baseball fans into the family photo, introduce us to another side of the great athletes we see on the field and give us an idea of what it must be like to have a child achieve his big-league dreams.

“You sacrifice so much for [your son] to get to this moment,” says Julie Megill, mother of breakout Mets pitcher Tylor Megill and Twins Minor Leaguer Trevor Megill. “We never did family vacations, because our vacations were going to baseball tournaments. We did everything possible to make this happen, and it worked. Now, we’re going to enjoy it.”

On Twitter (@julsmegill), Julie’s public enjoyment of life as a mom of two professional pitchers has garnered her a following north of 7,000. When she’s not busy running her newborn photography business, she spreads her infectious love of the game and her kids with openness and humor. She has become popular among Mets fans in a 2022 season that has featured Tylor’s unexpected rise to prominence in the club’s rotation.

When Tylor threw the first five innings of a combined no-hitter last week, Mets fans weren’t just virtually high-fiving each other. They were taken into the living room of his proud mama, from the pregame cocktails to the postgame pose in front of the TV.

“Someone said they felt really connected to him through my posts,” Julie says. “He doesn’t have Twitter; he only has Instagram. He doesn’t really read anything posted about him and doesn’t want to look at anything. So I said, ‘I’m going to do it for you.’”

Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong has joked with his mom, Andrea (@PrincessPapui), that she has a bigger Twitter following than he does.

That’s not technically true (Paul has more than 42,000 followers, while Andrea has just north of 2,000). But Andrea is much more active on the platform than her son and, in sharing photos from her travels to games and occasional commentary, has made many Cardinals fan friends along the way.

“I can’t be with Paul most of the year, so I started [tweeting] as a way to stay involved,” Andrea says. “I watch every game and am always planning my schedule around when the game occurs. I work from home [in human resource systems for the Walt Disney Company], so I have more virtual friends that I interact with than real, live people. But I have always tried to be sensitive and not post anything that would bring shame or judgment upon him.”

Baseball’s Twitter moms have to walk that fine line between sharing and oversharing. If they’re upset with a managerial move, if their son is slumping, if opposing fans get ahold of their handle and start talking smack, it takes restraint to not offer commentary that can be misconstrued or otherwise put their progeny in a bit of a bind.

“We’ve got a block button for a reason,” Julie Megill says with a laugh.

Adds Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove’s mom, Diane: “Sometimes you’ll read things that people who don’t know anything about baseball write, and you learn to ignore it. I know when to look and when not to look. When the game is over, if he has a nice game, it’s nice to hear positive stuff. But then you’ll still get some mean stuff, and I’m convinced it’s all from Dodger fans.”

When Joe was dealt from the Pirates to his hometown Padres prior to the 2021 season, Diane was delighted. Her account (@DianeMusgrove) has since become a place for the Friar faithful to become acquainted not just with her family but her food. Diane is 100-percent Sicilian and uses Twitter to post tantalizing pics of homemade pasta and the latest Joe Musgrove-themed menu offerings at Caffé Adesso, the Alpine, Calif., coffee shop she owns.

“We’ve been in business for 23 years, and this has brought us to a whole new level,” she says. “Right now, our best seller is the No. 44 cold brew with cream and vanilla… Being Italian, I’m a people person. At the coffee house, I love interacting with my customers. I feel the same way with fans.”

Michelle Castellanos also saw the good that social media can do last summer, when Nick was still with the Reds.

Nick’s son Liam drew a picture of his dad in his Reds uniform, and Nick wore it during the All-Star Game festivities. A Cincinnati T-shirt company mass-produced the shirts and donated a portion of the proceeds to the Dragonfly Foundation, a charity selected by Liam that helps pediatric cancer and bone marrow transplant patients. Michelle was the one who announced Liam’s charity selection on Twitter, and the video she posted of Liam seeing the shirts for sale for the first time went viral.

“I just put that video up of him seeing the shirt on social media because I love him and was so excited for him and loved seeing him so excited,” Michelle says. “At first, with the reaction, I was like, ‘What is happening right now?’ But because of how all those things came together, it brought so much change and help to so many people.”

Twitter has that power to elevate a profile. Jennifer Hicks, mom to Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks, has been stopped at the ballpark by fans who recognize her from her posts (@bballmomjlh).

“My friends make fun of me,” she says. “They say, ‘You’re Twitter famous!’ I say, ‘No, not really.’”

When Jordan first reached the big leagues in 2018, Bally Sports West reporter Jim Hayes interviewed him about his mom’s active social media existence.

“She’s a lovely lady,” Jordan said. “She likes to be a part of the life. She wishes she could be at every game, so I think that’s why she tweets so much to get more involved, I guess. I love her to death. I don’t know how she found Twitter, but all right.”

Jennifer still laughs about that.

“That’s our inside joke now, that I’m a ‘lovely lady,’” she says with a laugh. “He doesn’t filter me. He knows I do a good job of filtering myself. We haven’t had any run-ins where he’s like, ‘Don’t do that, don’t say that.’ I’m pretty politically correct. I don’t want to stir the pot or make him uncomfortable.”

You can be sure, though, that the social media-inclined moms are searching their sons’ names and seeing everything you’re saying about them.

And they like it when you confuse them for player wives.

“That’s a compliment to me!” Julie Megill says. “I started having kids young, but not that young!”

Michelle Castellanos is happy to let that occasional misunderstanding persist. And she didn’t have to worry about Nick seeing her accidental scoop about him signing with the Phillies. Nick is the polar opposite of his mom in terms of public sharing.

“He has a flip phone,” she says. “He just feels there’s too much noise out there.”

Thankfully, Nick’s mom makes the noise -- about her grandson’s charity choice, about Nick’s big blasts and recent new addition, about ridding his new Philadelphia home of the ghost of Ben Simmons.  

On Mother’s Day, we owe a tip of the cap -- or, better yet, a like -- to the Twitter moms like Michelle who let us into their social circle, one tweet at a time.

“It makes me feel like [the fans] are part of my family, in a way,” Michelle says. “I know there’s some good and some bad in all of it. But I keep approaching it with an honest frame of mind, loving the game and the competition and celebrating the excellence in sports. I’m coming from a place of genuine love of my son and love of the game. So I try to just focus on the goodness of that.”