A Look Back at the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, Part Two

Day Two: Monday, December 8

As detailed in the first post of this series, my Sunday in San Diego was fairly eventful. But that was just a precursor to Monday, the main event, when the Baseball Winter Meetings began in earnest. I was feeling kind of stressed out as the day began — places to go, people to see, an inflated sense of self-importance to maintain — but was able to remind myself to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

After a brief moment of appreciation, it was right to work. I stand by the sentiment expressed within the tweet below.

I wish I had had the time for sightseeing, but my work ethic, being indefatigable, wouldn’t allow it. I could see this statue from outside of my hotel window, but, unlike the Brooklyn Cyclones front office, I never did make the time for a proper visit.

My first destination of the day was the Opening Session, a Minor League Baseball “State of the Union” of sorts. I’ve been attending the Winter Meetings since 2007, and in that time the event has always been emceed by Iowa Cubs broadcaster Randy Wehofer. 2014 was no exception.

Standing in the back of the room, with no seat to call my own, I was feeling a little antsy. I dealt with my discomfiture via a flurry of social media activity.

A presidential citation was awarded to the West Michigan Whitecaps, in recognition of the team’s quick work in rebuilding their stadium in the wake of a devastating January fire.

Rise, industry. Rise as one in honor of this accomplishment.

Employing the self-delusional tendencies that led me to pursue a writing career in the first place, I led myself to believe that the industry was applauding my brief appearance within a video that contextualized and celebrated the Whitecaps’ rebuilding effort. This bit of dugout dancing occurred during my 2013 trip to West Michigan, a visit highlighted by plunger rejection.

IMG_0508Next up to the podium was a true San Diego icon, the Famous Chicken.

The Opening Session was truly an emotional rollercoaster, from soothing Wehoferian introductions to soaring West Michigan uplift to iconic mascot whimsy to a straight-ahead speech from Project Brand CMO Michael Hand regarding a new array of national Minor League Baseball sponsors. It was then Stan Brand’s turn to take the podium.

Brand, the executive vice president of Minor League Baseball, is a Washington D.C.-based lawyer tasked with defending Minor League Baseball’s interests in our nation’s capital. His speeches are a regular feature of the Winter Meetings’ Opening Session, but 2014’s edition has received far more attention than previous iterations. 

Brand’s speech concerned a lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball on behalf of Minor League Baseball players. The suit, Senne v. MLB, alleges that Major League Baseball is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act as regards Minor League player compensation. From the lawsuit:

Most minor leaguers earn between around $3,000 and $7,500 for the entire year despite routinely working over 50 hours per week (and sometimes 70 hours per week) during the roughly five-month championship season. They receive no overtime pay, and instead routinely receive less than minimum wage during the championship season.

Brand, in no uncertain terms, characterized this lawsuit as a threat to the Minor League Baseball industry. He said that “an adverse outcome in litigation would threaten affordable grassroots baseball,” because of  “a potential increase in player development costs.” Brand, who was chief legal officer for the House of Representatives under Tip O’Neill, will therefore be lobbying Congress to add the occupation of baseball player to the Fair Labor Standard Act’s list of occupations that are currently exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws.

After Brand articulated Minor League Baseball’s official stance on this contentious issue, Pat O’Conner took the podium and delivered a speech that touched on a variety of issues. The full text can be read HERE.

pat

Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner at the podium.

The Opening Sessions was a lot to take in. There were so many points to ponder, so many issues to consider. So I did what I always do in times of uncertainty: got my picture taken with a mascot.

chicken

The Opening Session gave way to lunch at Lolita’s, an order-at-the-counter Mexican restaurant located in close proximity to the Padres’ home of Petco Park. I walked past the stadium en route to the restaurant, taking in the view from this open-to-the-public bleacher seating area. That structure in the outfield is a sledding hill, complete with artificial snow, which is part of the Padres’ ongoing “Holiday Wonderland” stadium attraction.

IMG_0511Back at the Hilton, I pretended to get a little writing done while sitting in a second-floor hallway area.

But this is what I was really doing:

At three o’clock I met with Bill Valentine, 2014’s King of Baseball, so that I could interview him about his six-plus decades within the sport.

billIt was a lot of fun speaking with Mr. Valentine. We spoke — or rather, he spoke — for 80 minutes, and select excerpts from our conversation ran on MiLB.com the next day. There is more where that came from, and I hope to share more of his stories in the coming weeks and months.

Upon exiting the Hilton in the late afternoon, I ran smack dab into the early stages of a stunning San Diego sunset.

IMG_0516But the lure of actually enjoying myself on a beautiful night in a beautiful city took a back seat to the prerogatives of content generation. I spent the next few hours back in my hotel room, typing away, emerging at 8 o’clock so that I could meet this year’s four Job Seeker Journal writers for a drink in the lobby of the Hyatt.

I’ve run Job Seeker Journals on this blog for each of the past three years, but this marked the first time that I initiated such a group meeting. As of this writing, Julie Brady (left) has landed a job with the Inland Empire 66ers. Darius Thigpen, Sean Banks and Katie Carlson are still playing the waiting game.

001 The sky’s the limit for these four — hire ’em!

003

And that’ll do it for Day Two in San Diego. The following post will cover — you guessed it — Day Three. In conclusion, here’s a gratuitous photo of the Famous Chicken.

Photo: Danny Wild/MiLB.com

Photo: Danny Wild, MiLB.com

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: