September 18, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

From trading cards to the Little League championship, baseball has always been a part of American childhood. Now the Major League Baseball Players Association has a website that brings the players directly to the next generation of fans. The sports site is unique because it gives each player his own Web page to customize with personal stories or multimedia offerings. In addition to the 700-plus Web pages (including home-run star Mark McGwire’s), players can communicate regularly with fans through e-mail and chats. And why do the athletes take the time to participate with this virtual baseball community? ”It shows that we [the players] are willing to take the next step to communicate with the fans. The younger generation of fans are computer kids, and we want to reach them,” says Brian McRae, a New York Met who frequently updates his online journal from the road. Perhaps statistic-crazed baseball fans will soon keep records of the players who update their sites most often and answer the largest number of e-mail messages. And maybe the Dodgers will move back to Brooklyn.

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