Winter Meetings Blog Writer Journal, December 7

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.

Monday, December 7

Monday is when the Winter Meetings begin in earnest. It is also the busiest day of the Meetings, at least as regards previously scheduled events. I began the day in a haze — that’s what late nights at the bar will do to a body — but, nonetheless, I had a plan. That plan was to attend a couple of Bob Freitas Business Seminar presentations.

Capture

Booz: An Appropriate Winter Meetings Sponsor

The Bob Freitas Business Seminar is an annual event, the bulk of which takes place on Monday. Presentations, dubbed “Breakout Sessions”, are broken into five categories — Sales and Marketing, Operations, Licensing and Marketing, Community and Media Relations, and Fielder’s Choice — and run concurrently. When choosing which seminar to attend, I employ a simple strategy: Which one is the most likely to give me something interesting to write about?

Among the 8:30 a.m. offerings, I chose “You’re Still Our Teammate, You’re Still Our Brother: Planning the Announcement of Baseball’s First Openly Gay Active Player.” This presentation dealt with how the Milwaukee organization handled David Denson’s coming out announcement. Denson, who spent the 2015 season with Rookie-level Helena and Class A Wisconsin, became the first active affiliated player to come out as gay.

On hand to talk about the subject was Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes and MLB ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean (not be confused with A’s general manager Billy Beane. Yes, it’s extremely weird that there are two prominent “Billy Bean(e)s within the world of Major League Baseball).

barnes_beanIn the above photo, Barnes is seated on the left and Bean is speaking. This is an apropos image, as the vast bulk of the session was given over to Bean’s re-telling of his own struggles as a closeted player in the 1980s. His story is interesting and important, but by the time he was done there were only about 10 minutes left to deal with the issue of “Okay, how did the Brewers handle Denson’s case?” and “What might your team do when (not if), this story repeats itself?” I left feeling disappointed. This was a timely, worthwhile topic, but attendees weren’t given much pragmatic advice and guidance.

But such is the reality of vast, multi-faceted events such as the Freitas Seminar. They can’t all be winners. Next on the agenda was this:

This session was great. I’d never given thought to this issue before, but Earnell Lucas ably convinced me of its importance. He gave an organized and balanced presentation on the myriad ways in which drone usage can (and will) impact the Minor League Baseball experience. I ended up taking so many notes, and becoming so interested in the topic, that I wrote an article about it later in the day.

I think the article came out pretty well. My photographic attempt did not. My apologies to Lucas (at the podium) and his panelists (Adam Nuse, Jason Compton, Darren Spagnardi).

dronepanelIt was now time for the Opening Session, when the entire industry gathers in a gigantic room.

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Another award-winning photo

The event, as always, was emceed by Iowa Cubs broadcaster Randy Wehofer. As always, League Executive of the Year Awards were distributed and, as always, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner gave his “State of the Union”-style address. Minor League Baseball vice president Stan Brand also took the podium, speaking strongly against pending litigation that seeks to classify Minor League Baseball players as hourly workers (under this designation, many players make less than minimum wage).

Brand’s stance makes sense from the standpoint that, if Major League teams had to pay Minor League players more, they would then seek to pass off a larger portion of their player development costs on to the Minor League affiliates. It’s simple self-preservation. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to reconcile the reality of the situation — players in search of comparatively modest pay increases — with Brand’s assertion that the lawsuit is an “assault” and that those in the industry need to be “grassroots soldiers” against it. Call me naive, but I’d like to think that there’s enough money to go around.

Also during the Opening Session, the Lucas Confectionery wine bar of Troy, New York was awarded the “OnDeck Small Business of the Year Award.” The Lucas Confectionery is owned and operated by Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, former members of the Tri-City ValleyCats front office, so them receiving an award from Minor League Baseball marked an improbable return to industry approval.

vic

Vic Christopher, 2008 MiLB.com file photo

After the Opening Session, most of the industry went on to the Awards Luncheon. I’d seen enough award-disbursement for the day, so I headed back to my hotel room to do some work, as there is always work to do.

Have I mentioned that the Opryland is the most surreal hotel that I have ever stayed in? This is was the view from my first-floor abode, located in the “Cascades” section of the facility.

The benefits of working in a hotel room.

But I wasn’t in the hotel room for long, as my desire to sit in a conference room had not yet been satiated. Next up was this:

I already made a mention of this in a MiLB.com story that ran at the end of last week. An excerpt:

“[Diversity and inclusion] is the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do,” said panelist Wendy Lewis, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances.

Lewis’ remark summed up the prevailing sentiment, as a front office that does not reflect the demographics of its market is, in all likelihood, failing to reach as wide a fan base as possible.

“A more diverse and inclusive front office brings broader experience and perspective,” added panelist Chuck Greenberg, who owns three Minor League teams. “It means that we are far more likely to have insights and sensitivities that benefit our communities.”

I had been especially interested to attend this panel after meeting Vince Pierson (and writing about him) earlier this year. He’s doing good things for the industry.

Sessions, speeches and seminars were finally, mercifully, done for the day. It was now time for more writing, and then dinner with co-workers. This marked the only time that I left the Opryland during my four-night stay, but soon enough I was back in the biosphere for another late night of schmoozing and boozing.

The day ended as all days must end: with yet another groundbreaking and subversive joke.

Yeah, man, I hear you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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