Now It Can Be Revealed

vegas.jpgFor confidential reasons related to my health and safety, I was forced to remain coy about where I spent my time from Sunday-Thursday. But now that I am back within the warm and comforting embrace of New York City, I can tell you that I was in Las Vegas in order to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings.

While the Winter Meetings of the popular imagination revolve around wheeling and dealing at the Major League level, in reality this is just a small portion of everything that goes on. The Minor Leagues are very well represented as well, and of course it is the Minors that are of interest to me.

Last year, I wrote a comprehensive Winter Meetings journal. This year, in the interest of brevity and also in the interest of retaining my readership, I will condense this coverage into capsule form.

Monday — Spent the majority of the day at the annual Bob Freitas Business Seminar, invegas2.jpg which select Minor League front office members and other industry luminaries shared their expertise. For my money (if I had in fact paid to attend), the highlight of the seminar was the afternoon roundtable discussions. The roundtables were divided into three 1/2 hour sessions, but there were 14 presenters overall. Therefore, it was imperative to choose wisely.

First, I watched Rob Hackash of the Reading Phillies speak about “Sparking Media Coverage From the Dead of Winter On”. The focus of this was largely on the R-Phils’ Valentines Day promotion, in which mascot Screwball delivers flowers and game tickets to lucky ladies throughout the region. This was followed by Casey and Jason of Plan B Branding, who enthusiastically delivered an idea round-up entitled “So a shark, a groundskeeper, and a used car salesman walk into bar…” I can’t recall the punchline to this set-up, but in my mind it involved the shark needing CPR from the used car salesman. Either way, the title effectively conveyed Plan B’s knack at utilizing orchestrated chaos for fun and profit at the Minor League level. Finally, I watched Scott Carter (accomplished marketer and dancer for the Fresno Grizzlies) speak about “Repeat Customers: The Cheap and Easy Success Strategy.” Essentially, Carter laid out a series of objectives geared toward transforming the casual ballpark visitor into a bona-fide super fan. (step one: book Billy Zabka).

Monday evening was filled with the usual Vegas hi-jinx, such as watching “Cash Cab” in the hotel room and going to bed early.

trade.jpgTuesday: On the professional level, most of my day was spent traversing the labrynthian corridors of the mammoth Baseball Trade Show. As someone who writes about promotions year-round, I always enjoying seeing what new giveaway items are being peddled by the various vendors in attendance. My favorite this year was the flipbooks being offered by Coyote Promotions, in which teams can have their memorable moments immortalized through the magic of self-propelled fast-moving still photography.

But, the trade show is exhausting. In addition to constantly being on one’s feet, there is the nagging feeling of being eyed up by vendors as they decide whether or not to launch into a sales pitch. I’m probably not worth talking to, unless someone is interested in getting a plug on one of the internet’s finest Minor League business blogs. On second thought, this definitely makes me worth talking to. I wield influence like a caveman wields a club. 

Tuesday night I took a bus three miles east on Tropicana to the Pinball Hall of Fame. 220pinball.jpg machines from all eras of pinball history, and all in excellent condition. This place is a labor of love, and an absolute must for anyone who enjoys pinball. I, obviously, love pinball. In fact, email me at any time in order to talk about pinball.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Wednesday — Early in the afternoon I spoke with Minor League President Pat O’Conner on his plans for 2009. This conversation was then deftly combined with select quotes from O’Conner’s Opening Session speech on Monday, and turned into this journalistic masterwork. On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Minor League gala at the Pure Nightclub. The invitation called for “upscale club attire”, and it was quite a spectacle indeed to see each attendee’s interpretation of these dress specifications (khakis and an untucked and wrinkled collared shirt seemed to be the general consensus). This event, which likely resulted in the most disparate male to female ratio in the history of Pure Nightclub, was nonetheless a good time and a great networking opportunity.

Acting on a tip from someone who knows about such things, I ended the evening at the Peppermill Lounge. This place was great, especially in contrast to the faux-opulence and barely disguised customer contempt that characterizes so many other businesses on the Las Vegas strip. Enjoying a cigar and a double bloody mary while sitting around a flaming pool (!) was the perfect ending to the Vegas experience.

slots.JPGSo, in summary, when in Vegas visit the Pinball Hall of Fame and the Peppermill Lounge. Oh, and “Slots A Fun” has $2 blackjack at all times. That’s about all I can help you out with.

Addendum: I must say that, throughout the week, I was surprised by the number of people who referenced this blog as the primary reason they know who I am. So, if you know me, get in contact with me. Or, if you don’t know me, still get in contact. This blog is a two-way street, and the more anecdotes, photos, and news items that get sent my way, then the better the content. Upwards and onwards toward world domination!

Incidentally, this blog ranked #49 among MLB Pro Blogs in the number of visitors from Opening Day to the present. While it means a lot to me have beaten my long-time blogging nemesis Torii Hunter, there is still a long ways to go. Please, keep spreading the word…

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