Winter Meetings Journal, Day 3: Penultimate Day, Ultimate Post

Throughout last week’s Winter Meetings, I provided the perspectives of four young Job Fair attendees. We’ll hear from them again eventually, once their still in-flux employment situations are sorted out, but until then I’ll be providing an account of my own Winter Meetings experience. Today’s post is part three of a planned trilogy, making it the “Return of the Jedi” of Minor League-centric offseason blog posts. There are worse things to be, I suppose. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Technically speaking, Wednesday is not the final day of the Winter Meetings, as Thursday’s activities include the Rule 5 draft as well as a banquet dinner during which the “King of Baseball” is announced. (This year’s honoree was Portland Sea Dogs president Charlie Eshbach.) But the vast majority of Meetings attendees leave town on Thursday, making Wednesday the de facto final day to really get things done.

So, yeah, after arriving in a discombobulated state on Sunday and losing the majority of Monday to ill health, I woke up on Wednesday feeling good but also feeling anxious. It’s the final day here already? Have I accomplished anything at all? Have I ever accomplished anything at all?

The answer to such questions remains elusive, but hope springs eternal. I began the day productively by posting the first two of what would be Wednesday’s three “Job Seeker Journal” entries, proceeding from this task to an actual interaction with human beings. I had been asked to be part of a video that sports biz veteran Dan Migala (a founding partner of PCG) was helping to put together on behalf of the nationwide industry initiative that is Project Brand. The video — in which various industry pros (and, in my case, hanger-ons) were asked to provide their perspective on what makes Minor League Baseball unique — was being produced in a Swan resort conference room. When I arrived, the team behind the video were interviewing Iowa Cubs president Sam Bernabe, and I covertly took this lousy shot of my surroundings. Photo-journalism at its finest.

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After doing my interview, which will surely catapult me to the global superstardom that had long been denied me, I took the time to wander around the ground floor of the Swan Resort. While the majority of Winter Meetings activity took place on the Dolphin end, the Swan served as the location of the PBEO Job Fair and was therefore the base of operations for those who traveled to Orlando in order to (hopefully) secure baseball industry employment. Such as, you know, the four guys and gals who were featured on this blog and MiLB.com.

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You know you’re in the Swan due to clear visual signifiers such as these. (Also, they had Children of God playing on full blast at all times.)

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The Job Fair was in full effect.
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As you may have heard, the Job Fair experience can often be summed via the cliche “Hurry up and wait.” Scattered throughout this area were idle job seekers, biding time until their next interview (or simply waiting for a call to get an interview in the first place).

Hi guys!

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Okay, now get back to work.

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As mentioned in Part One of this easily neglectable series, the Swan and Dolphin are connected via this most scenic pathway.

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Upon re-entering the Dolphin, this was the scene.

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The escalators seen above lead to the main lobby, epicenter of schmooze. I was constantly orienting myself toward the lobby over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, using it as my default Meetings meeting point, and, quite frankly, I over-extended myself in that regard this year. I’ve always made it a point to meet and speak with anyone who wants to get in touch, but throughout my time in Orlando I was constantly hit with introductory texts, emails and tweets and didn’t really know how to sensibly schedule face time in such a hectic and ever-changing environment.

In retrospect, I think a big part of the “problem” was that this was my first Meetings with a smart phone. The constant access to all forms of communication and social media can be convenient, but often results in a bombardment of information and options that hinders more than it hurts.

Regardless, I still like to meet people! In my line of work, and in most lines of work, it’s a very important thing to do. One of the people who I met with over the course of Wednesday afternoon was logo designer John Hartwell of Hartwell Studio Works. John recently wrote a guest post on this blog about his “Holiday League” logo creations, and out of appreciation for this opportunity he presented me with a North Pole Reindeer t-shirt.

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Just a few days after the Meetings one of John’s Holiday League creations went viral, thanks to Baseball-Reference posting a player page for Rudolph the Reindeer. Some much deserved publicity for a cool concept, and remember: you read about it on Ben’s Biz Blog first!

Back to the room for more Job Seeker blog postings, back to the lobby for various and sundry face-to-face meetings, rinse, repeat. Once 2 0′clock rolled by I was hit with a realization of “Dude, you gotta log some time in the Trade Show!” It was slated to close in just two hours.

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A display highlighting vendors in the “First Year Pavillion:” Virtual Concierges, Super Utility Belts, Photo Food Helmets, Baseball Bingo App, Sticky Wicky Ballpark Catcher, Pro-Stadium Models, the Ultimate Practice Bat, and more.

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One stop shopping for baseball executives.

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During my wanderings I ran into old pal Utility Man (aka Ben Youngerman), a traveling ballpark performer in the mold of Max Patkin and Myron Noodleman. (I’ve written about him before.) Here is he is, in the guise of one of his new characters.

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During the Trade Show I enjoyed a late lunch of hambuger, wings, peanuts, and human thumb.

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Actually, I was just modeling the “painter’s palette” grip of FreeHand, a new innovation in the field of concession carrying.

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I wrote about my Trade Show wanderings in THIS MiLB.com ARTICLE, and for those who are more visually inclined (ie, the entire internet), check out the photo gallery put together by my colleague Danny Wild.

Mr. Wild also took this photo. Unfortunately, this is an apt summation of the way I felt throughout this year’s Meetings. Anxious and antsy, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. What shoe, I don’t know.

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Another pic, courtesy of Mr. Wild, displaying what may soon become a familiar sight to baseball-inclined El Pasoans in 2014 and beyond.

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One thing I’ve never quite understood about the Trade Show is that many of the vendors start shutting down and packing up during its last hour. After paying x amount of dollars and traveling x amount of miles for a booth, why not man it until the bitter end? You never know who might stop by!

And speaking of the bitter end, I was getting close to it. After adjourning to the hotel room to write my aforementioned Trade Show story, I headed out to the annual Winter Meetings Gala. The gala was held poolside at the hotel, featuring food, booze, music, and plenty of human interaction. I’ve always enjoyed it, both as a signal that the Winter Meetings are winding down and because it allows for valuable socialization opportunities. The only photo I possess is this poor quality cell phone shot, which depicts folks hitting plastic golf balls into a pool.

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And that, as they say, was that. Another Winter Meetings in the books, and one that all things considered I was quite happy to put in the rear view mirror. The next morning I got on a plane, and my cares drifted away as I got lost in the easy conversational rhythms of the best morning show team in the biz.

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Kathie Lee and Hoda, I love you both.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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