Winter Meetings Blog Writer Journal, December 6

Last week, I dedicated my little slice of internet infinity to the recollections and reflections of four Winter Meetings job seekers. This week, I’ll provide my own Twitter-centric account of the week that was.

The 2015 Winter Meetings were held at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort, one of the few places I’ve ever been to that fully justifies usage of the word “Brobdingnagian.” I had already attended two Winter Meetings at the Opryland — 2007 and 2012 — so at least I had an idea regarding what to expect. What I expected, and, indeed, what happened, is that I was constantly lost, constantly running into people I knew from within the “industry,” and constantly lamenting the fact that I didn’t break in my new pair of shoes before heading to Nashville. I was like the Curt Schilling of the Winter Meetings, though not as ostentatious.

Due to my procrastination in booking a flight to Nashville, I had to fly out of Newark like some kind of barbarian. Thus, my documentation of the week began with this pithy observation as I made my way to the airport.

Seriously, an automated voice says something along the lines of “We have now arrived at Terminal C, serving U-Netted, U-Netted Express and U-Netted International.” It boggles the mind.

But I arrived in Nashville swiftly and safely, which is all that really matters. A cab driver named Kofi gave me a ride to the Opryland, regaling me all the while with his tales of being a DJ in New York City in the early ’90s. Kofi brought me to the Opryland swiftly and safely and — Bam! — I was suddenly in another world.

To talk about the Opryland is to talk about being lost at the Opryland. There are nine acres in which to roam.

My first order of Winter Meetings’ “Business” was to attend the annual Banquet. Last year I made the mistake of not packing formal clothes for this event (I was the doofus in jeans), but this year I was dressed to moderately impress in slacks and a suit jacket. The Banquet marked the first instance of a strange social dynamic I encounter at the Meetings each year. While I know hundreds of people at the event, and enjoy basking in my quasi-celebrity for a few days, I am generally traveling alone at social events while everyone else is with their “team.” I walked into the Banquet with the strategy that I’d sit with the first person to extend me an invitation. That invite came courtesy of Scott Sailor and his Iowa Cubs cohorts, and to them, I am grateful. I ended up sitting next to I-Cubs broadcaster (and one-time movie star) Randy Wehofer, a consummate pro who I’d love to hear on a Major League broadcast someday soon.

The Banquet was emceed by Cincinnati Reds broadcaster George Grande, host of the first-ever episode of SportsCenter. During his opening remarks Grande had to speak over a large amount of crowd chatter — C’mon, industry, you should have better manners than that — and then brought Commissioner Manfred on stage for an interview.

Soon thereafter, Tri-City ValleyCats owner Bill Gladstone was named 2015’s “King of Baseball.” The King of Baseball wears a crown and a robe, as any king should. These accoutrements are bestowed by Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner.

IMG_0741

There has never been a “Queen” of baseball. Someday?

The highlight of the Banquet, however, was when recently retired Minor League home run king Mike Hessman received a “Career Achievement Award.” Hessman was visibly emotional as he took the podium, and paused for a good 15 or 20 seconds before launching into his speech.

I’m not sure if a full video of Hessman’s speech exists, but at least I was able to capture a little bit of it.

As the Banquet was winding down, I departed the premises and hightailed it over to Presidential Ballroom D to meet with this year’s group of Job Seeker Journal writers (their collected experiences can be found HERE). That’s Will Privette in front. Behind him, left to right, is an increasingly fat Ben’s Biz, David Lauterbach, Tori Payne and Jim Angell. Job Seekers - Group with Ben HillThe purpose of my Sunday evening meeting with this fearsome foursome was to record the “before” portion of a “before and after” video chronicling their experience. I’ll link to that at the relevant time.  From there, it was back out and into the Opryland wilderness.

The Opryland has several drinking establishments on the premises, and I got to know these establishments very well during my four nights in Nashville. The late-night Winter Meeetings bar scene is not just fueled by hedonistic impulse; it is an invaluable resource as a place to network and procure information in an informal setting. And, on an egotistical level, it is great to walk into a bar and have so many people know who I am and want to buy me a drink. This has never happened to me in New York City, and probably never will.

The work day never ends, even when the “work” in question is resurrecting my “groundbreaking and subversive joke” franchise. There’s plenty more where this came from.

There’s also plenty more where this came from.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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