Hannibal's Prospect League baseball team encountered an unexpected obstacle on the internet the same day as making a major announcement.
The Hannibal Hoots posted to new social media accounts Wednesday to announce its team name and logo, which came as part of a rebranding effort to create distance from the former Hannibal club dubbed the Cavemen from 2009-2016.
Just hours later, a Twitter account linked to the former Cavemen franchise posted the status “Caveball lives.” Following that was a graphic on the former club's Facebook account including the words “Cavemen Forever.” Additionally, the Cavemen Facebook page uploaded a new cover photo this week with the logo of the former team that garnered 62 likes and confusion from commenters.
Hoots general manager Matt Stembridge confirmed Friday morning he is not aware of who posted to the Cavemen accounts, which on Facebook has upward of 2,300 likes but had been dormant since Aug. 10, 2016.
“I sent them a message trying to get that information back,” Stembridge said. “To make a long story short, they informed me they weren't going to give me the password and that it was to be used for the fans of Cavemen baseball.”
For the Hoots, which announced its launch Oct. 3 at City Hall, concerns in regard to the Cavemen accounts began well before Wednesday. They arose the first time Stembridge tried to find out how the prior front office managed social media.
Rick DeStefane, the Hoots sole owner, was a co-owner of the Cavemen with California businessman Bob Hemond until the club folded this January. DeStefane is the only holdover from the Cavemen front office, though he was not in charge of day-to-day operations such as the social media accounts.
Those responsibilities were often left to interns in recent years, though the Hoots front office is unsure whether the Cavemen also had a third-party company involved in marketing.
“When we first got in here, we tried to get a handle on what social media presence they had,” Stembridge said. “We tried to find everything as far as login information and credentials for anything they had done. But we couldn't find anything.”
Stembridge's efforts to reach Hemond have been unsuccessful, and attempts to speak with representatives from corporate offices for Facebook and Twitter also have gained no traction.
Stembridge messaged the individual who has been operating the Cavemen accounts this week and asked for his or her name.
“Their response to me was they were paid to do marketing on behalf of the Cavemen,” he said.
The Courier-Post sent a message to the Cavemen Facebook account Thursday to inquire about why he or she suddenly started to post after a lengthy absence.
The following was the response: “The official fan page of 'Cavemen Forever', celebrating the history of the Hannibal Cavemen baseball team, which was located in Hannibal, MO from 2009-2016. #CAVEBALL”
The bios on the Cavemen Facebook and Twitter accounts changed this week to something of the same effect.
Stembridge mentioned he has no problem with the Cavemen fan page as long as it doesn't assert that the former club still exists.
“There are a lot of people in this community who loved the Cavemen,” he said. “I've spent two or three days looking at old YouTube videos of the packed stadium of all these people who loved being part of that organization. If that stays as a Hannibal Cavemen Forever site, we have no problem with that.
“But having said that, this is recognized as a new organization in the Prospect League and in college baseball across the country. It's a new organization with a new identity. The Hannibal Hoots social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, as it relates to Hannibal Hoots, that's where we'll be found.”
Stembridge said his first choice would have been to transition the Cavemen accounts to be used by the current club under updated profile names.
The Hoots front office has reached out to Quincy Gems assistant general manager Deron Johnson, a former Cavemen employee, for help digging up passwords for the former accounts. Johnson has been more than willing to cooperate, Stembridge said.
The Hoots front office is only left to speculate the motives the rogue poster has for bringing the Cavemen accounts back to life on the same day the current club announced its new name.
“My gut is that it's somebody that still has access, realized they still had access when the new name was coming out and in an effort to be playful said, 'Hey, we're going to throw something up,'” Stembridge said.
Stembridge didn't rule out it could be related to an unpaid bill by previous management.
“When Rick (DeStefane) became the sole owner of this organization, he retained anything that was the organization's,” Stembridge said. “In doing so, there (were) different bills or outstanding relationships with different organizations. That might be one of them. We don't have anything concrete on our end.
“If it were something about a bill, my assumption would be (the individual) would give us information about the bill, who they are and what they company they represent would be. And they haven't told me those things.”