The 2010 MLB season was a rough one for Brandon Phillips. Though he won his second Golden Glove, his image took a beating. On his way to St. Louis, the Reds second baseman called the Cardinals “little bitches,” which led to a brawl clearing both dugouts. Instead of shutting his mouth, to reconnect with his audience Phillips turned to Twitter in January 2011 at the urging of his sister and his buddy Chad Ochocinco.

Now not only does @DatDudeBP opine about road food and Coming to America, he also really interacts with his 210,000 followers. He holds contests and flies winners to games; when he had a rare night off last season, he attended a Little League game at a 14-year-old Twitter fan’s request.

“Going to that game was probably one of the best things that ever happened,” he says. “Just the way he was acting around me. I know people love me because of baseball, but to love me as a person—that right there said a lot.”

Why this whole Twitter thing means something: “Instead of me doing Twitter for personal reasons, I do it for my fans. I do giveaways to treat them well because they show me nothing but love. I feel like they’re my family. It’s a responsibility. There are not a lot of baseball players able to do that because we play every day. And I think that a lot of people don’t have the time—or, really, take the time—to speak to their fans.”

What apps he’s into besides Twitter: “I use the ADT app for my security. I use the app. YouTube—I use that all the time. I just got into the Skype thing. I’m a late bloomer. I play Angry Birds all the time. I’m a simple person, really.”

How he deals with being on the road: “I love the Food Network because I travel so much. They show you restaurants you should try, and I say, ‘Okay, let me write this down, so when I go to different cities, I can try it out.’ And I love Bobby Flay. I love Bobby Flay.”