Winter Meetings Journal, Day 2: Winter Meetings, the Musical
Throughout last week’s Winter Meetings, I provided the perspectives of four young Job Fair attendees. We’ll hear from them again before the year is out (or at least that’s the plan), but until then I’ll be providing an account of my own Winter Meetings experience. Today’s post is part two of a planned trilogy which, like Super Mario Brothers, will be consistently entertaining over the course of its three installments.
Tuesday, December 11
The major theme of my previous post was, unfortunately, how horrible I had felt over the course of the day. Sickness had thus far completely compromised my ability to function normally, and waking up on Tuesday my only real goal was to make it through the day like a normal functioning person.
Mission accomplished! Whether it was the prescribed “B.R.A.T.” diet or merely the psychosomatic effects of having been visited by a medical professional, I woke up on Tuesday with a new lease on life. After posting the first two of that day’s “Job Seeker Journals” I made my way to the Brobdingnagian assemblage of baseball-related goods and services that is the Trade Show, which had officially kicked off the night before with an opening reception cocktail party (i.e., a chance for the industry to get a head start on drinking while making mental notes regarding which booths they plan on visiting — and, more importantly, avoiding — the next day).
The Trade Show is located an escalator ride down from the Dolphin’s main lobby, its breadth and heft signified by the fact that it comprises the resort’s Atlantic AND Pacific Halls. The show is only open to badge-wearing Winter Meetings registrees, assuring that the hoi polloi won’t overrun the place in search of free tote bags, mascot costume photo ops and Kayem sausage samples.
Browsing the aisles would have to wait, however, as Lynn University professor Ted Curtis had asked me to speak to a group of his sports management students. Each year Lynn University maintains a booth at the Trade Show, which serves as a recruitment tool as well as a De facto lecture hall as various baseball professionals drop by in order to share their expertise (or, as in my case, distinct lack thereof).
I always enjoy spending a little time at the Lynn University booth, and appreciate Curtis’s annual invitation to drop by. After speaking to the students about Minor League Baseball in general and my job in particular, I snapped this photo (having given the instruction to please look “rapt”).
It’s hard to tell from the above picture, but three of this blog’s “Job Seeker Journal” guest writers were in the audience: Lynn University student Alex Reiner, Meredith Perri, and Kasey Decker (fourth job seeker Ian Fontenot, ever elusive, was out seeking employment in parts unknown).
In yesterday’s post I mentioned the annual industry idea-sharing symposium that is the Bob Freitas Business Seminar, largely in order to lament the fact that I had missed it due to illness. Except that I hadn’t, not completely. While in previous years the seminar took place on Monday only, this year the format was changed as what had traditionally been Monday afternoon small group sessions were know dispersed over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday. These 30-minute lectures took place in various nooks and crannies of the Trade Show floor, and looked a little something like this. Hit it:
I ended up sitting in on a speech by Pensacola Blue Wahoos merchandise manager Denise Richardson, regarding the always timely topic of “Getting Your Logo Out in the Community.” One aspect of this that is unique to the Blue Wahoos is that the team has its own brand of bottled water. In Googling this, I was referred to one of my own blog posts from 2012:
Because my subject matter is so specific and I’ve been writing about it for so long, this happens all the time: I Google something related to the world of MiLB only to find my own material as one of the primary information sources. This makes me feel like I’m caught in an infinite loop, a snake devouring its own tail, helplessly sucked into a vacuum of self-reference that will one day collapse in upon itself and render my whole existence obsolete. Perhaps this has already happened? I’m always the last to know.
After departing the Lynn University booth I decided that my best course of action would be to quickly return to the hotel room so that I could post the remainder of that day’s Job Seeker Journals. But at the Winter Meetings it is nearly impossible to get anywhere with any semblance of speed, as at every turn lurks someone waiting to say hello. This is both the blessing and the curse of having the entire industry in one place, but since my poor health precluded me from socializing on Sunday and Monday I was more than happy to log some face time with friends both old and new.
So hob knob it was, as I slowly made my way from the Trade Show floor to the my hotel room. Hello Lakewood BlueClaws director of media relations Greg Giombarresse! Enjoying your first Winter Meetings? How’s life in the post-Geoff Brown era? Hello Lake County Captains assistant general manager Neil Stein! Now that you mention it, an article on affiliate dinners would make for an interesting (and nearly totally undocumented) slice of Winter Meetings life? Hello Charleston RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols! You’re on your way to a league meeting? What goes on at those, anyway? Maybe I should write about it sometime? Hello Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler? How are your various writing projects coming along? And where’s Slavko?
And on and on it went. These conversations are invaluable, in that they create new relationships and strengthen old ones, thereby paving the way for another season of high-quality (albeit collapsing in upon itself) content. But, also, what was I going to write about in the here and now? I was a writer at the Winter Meetings, and a writer at the Winter Meetings should probably spend some time writing about the Winter Meetings. But what, when, and how? Tons of ideas were buzzing around my head, and I was already feeling anxious and unproductive having accomplished virtually nothing over the previous two days. Luckily, back in the hotel room, while I was posting some new Job Seeker Journal posts, the answer came to me in the form of an emailed question. To paraphrase:
Bull Durham is going to be made into a musical, and Ron Shelton (the film’s writer and director) and several of his collaborators are here at the Meetings in order to officially announce the project. Was I able/willing to do a story on this?
Well, sure. The musical is being funded by Buffalo Bisons owners Bob and Mindy Rich (via their Rich Entertainment Group), so it was via Bisons PR man Brad Bisbing who helped arrange the interview. After a quick hotel room crash course on Ron Shelton’s career as well as the specifics of Bull Durham (it’s been years since I’ve seen it), I strode down to the lobby in order to meet Bisbing, Shelton, producers Jack Viertel and Laura Stanczyk and composer Susan Werner. After five or so minutes of fruitless wandering in search of a place to sit down (the official pastime of the Winter Meetings), we ducked into the Dolphin’s “Australia” conference room and I proceeded to interview Shelton and his creative team for about 20 minutes.
I thought that the interview went well, as everyone was open and honest and engaging, and after a quick round of goodbyes I went upstairs to write it. After all, it was a scoop! (Or at least as big of a scoop as a niche Minor League Baseball writer is going to get.) As I was writing, my colleague Danny Wild went to a cocktail reception announcing the musical in order to take pictures for the story and, for whatever reason, he ended up taking about 125 photos of Shelton talking to Mets manager Terry Collins. Seriously, you could make a flip book out of it.
Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo joins the convo:
Composer Susan Werner plays a tune from the forthcoming musical as Shelton and new BFF Collins stand riveted.
“But anyway, as I was saying…”
And on and on it goes…While Mr. Wild was doing yeoman’s work by making sure that Collins and Shelton’s pow-wow would be the most photographically well-documented conversation of all time, I was in the hotel room cranking out my piece. You don’t want to see how the sausage is made, but HERE IT IS, the proverbial sausage. (Click on the “link” to read it).
Another story was in the books, and I have some leftover conversational fragments that I’m looking forward to sharing on this blog in the near future as well! (Teaser: Mr. Shelton doesn’t think the world of Minor League Baseball holds much interest anymore). With the story filed, I decided to test my luck and eat my first full meal in days via a company dinner at a Walt Disney-owned restaurant by the name of Portabello. Unfortunately this establishment was in the midst of “downtown” Disney, a tacky and rather garish conglomerate of family-friendly shops and activities (as in, an earnest young man in his 20’s, on an outdoor stage, leading a gaggle of children in “The Chicken Dance.” What is this? Minor League Baseball?).
I wanted to get out of “downtown” Disney as soon as I arrived, and grotesqueries such as this only strengthened by desire to leave. A dress made out of dolls wearing dresses? This is just creepy, evening wear for soul capturers, and I don’t blame that doll in the bottom middle for trying to escape from the hellish reality she has found herself trapped within.
A quick cab ride courtesy of the Mears transportation conglomerate soon had me back at the Dolphin, where I partook in the nightly hotel lobby socializing ritual that I had missed out on the night before. As usual, there were too many people to talk to and too little time.