Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

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

Day Three: Tuesday, December 9

On Tuesday, with the Winter Meetings in full swing, an anonymous but clearly exasperated Minor League Baseball employee posted the following to the @MiLBProbz Twitter account:

I can understand the frustration. Only a privileged handful of each team’s employees get to attend the Winter Meetings each year, while the rest are stuck in the office making cold calls (you know, because it’s winter). But, hey, guess what? If those same frustrated front officers ever get the chance to attend the Winter Meetings themselves, then you can bet dollars to donuts that they, too, will engage in disingenuous “wish you were here” social media braggadocio. It’s human nature: Complain about abhorrent behavior until you, too, have a chance to engage in it!

I’m as guilty as the rest. More so, actually, as this series of blog posts has allowed me to extend my Winter Meeting reminisces until more than a week after the event’s conclusion. This is because everything that happened to me while in San Diego was VERY IMPORTANT. Like, on Tuesday morning, while walking to the San Diego Convention Center, I took a picture of this boatload of bananas.

IMG_0519I could produce a lot of these types of pictures, if I so desired. They have mass a-peel, so why not just keep on Dole-ing them out? After all, I’m not the sort of man willing to let a prime punning opportunity potassium right by. Seeking to share the fruits of my labors, I introduced the following concept to my vast Twitter following:

Spoiler alert: this went nowhere. The next day, I conceded defeat:

But that’s okay. In real life, I had places to go and people to see. Namely, the PBEO Job Fair, which I visited early Tuesday afternoon simply because I wanted to get a sense of what that environment was like. This event, a Winter Meetings staple, was situated on the second floor of the San Diego Convention Center. Specifically, it was located at the terminus of an interstellar portal.

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The picture below depicts the scene in the Interview Schedule room. Each piece of paper posted on the boards shows the list of candidates that have been chosen to interview for a particular job or internship.

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Pictured, from left to right: white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy

Job Seekers are generally engaged in one of three tasks: applying for a job, interviewing for a job or, most commonly, waiting around for jobs to be posted and interviews to be announced. But no matter what task one was engaged in, there was plenty of room in which to spread out.

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Imagine, if you will, that the hallway seen above was littered with trap doors. Anyone with the misfortune of falling through such a door would have landed in or in front of the annual Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show.

IMG_0545I went down to the Trade Show to meet a co-worker, esteemed Minoring in Twitter writer Danny Wild, so that the two of us could collaborate on a short Trade Show video for MiLB.com. In advance of Mr. Wild’s arrival, I took some time to acquaint myself with that which was contained within the Trade Show’s labyrinthian corridors.

There were a lot of things contained within, that’s the nature of the beast, but what fascinated me the most was this.

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How to Master Baseball, self-published, was given to me by its author, Winston B. Lewy, who had obtained a booth at the Trade Show in order to convince attendees that he had indeed invented a way in which baseball could be mastered. The book contains 945 (!) queries related to the game of baseball, divided into chapters such as “How to Master Hitting” and “How to Master Sliding.” Adherents to the program then must construct a variety of PVC-pipe based mechanisms (as seen in the cover illustrations above) in order to practice the techniques outlined therein.

Free stuff is in abundance at the Trade Show, so when Lewy first handed me the book I didn’t think much of it. It was only after flipping through it in my room that evening that I realized I had stumbled upon something truly unique and strange. The book is written as if its target audience is a future civilization that has lost its knowledge of baseball, a civilization which must now use the book in order to understand and master the sport anew. I quickly became fascinated by Lewy and his quixotic mission, but when I returned to the Trade Show the next day to get more detail he was already gone. Had he ever been there?

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Anyhow, after my brief but impactful encounter with Lewy, I did indeed meet up with my esteemed colleague Danny Wild and we did indeed produce a video (and accompanying article) about the Trade Show.

If you watched the above video, then you will see that I, for one, have already mastered baseball. My stroke (as seen at the :32 mark) is impeccable.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

During last week’s Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, I dedicated my blog content to sharing the perspectives of four PBEO Job Fair attendees. I, for one, think that this job-seeking quartet did a spectacular job with their assignment. They were all great writers, up to the task of documenting a challenging life experience with honesty and humor, and since the Meetings have concluded I have been feeling quite proud of them in a cool uncle sort of way. (I am cool, right?) These feelings have unsettled me a bit, because they force me to acknowledge just how much older than them I really am. I mean, when this year’s crop of Job Seeker Journal writers was born, I was spending my days obsessing over season four of The Simpsons, Helmet’s Meantime lp and the Daulton-Kruk-Dykstra-era of the Philadelphia Phillies.

But now that the Job Seekers have had their say (at least for now), it is time to transition to sharing my own San Diego Winter Meetings experience. It was an exhausting four days, to be sure, but it was a privilege to attend and I hope this series of blog posts helps illuminate the lesser-known aspects of this annual baseball industry confab.

Day One: Sunday, December 7

I arrived in San Diego a little after 12 p.m., after a mercifully uneventful flight. It felt a bit surreal to know that the day was still young, considering that I had just traveled across the country, but such are the vagaries of westward air travel. The above picture shows the facade of San Diego’s Hyatt Hotel, one of two host sites for the 2014 Meetings. The Major League folks were based in the Hyatt, while the Minor League contingent was centered approximately half a mile away in the Bayfront Hilton.

In between (but much closer to the Hilton) was the San Diego Convention Center, home of the PBEO Job Fair as well as the annual Trade Show.

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On the other side of the tracks — literally — was the heart of San Diego’s tourist-friendly Gaslamp District.

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IMG_0483Despite having spent four days in San Diego, I never did find out why the Gaslamp Quarter is called the Gaslamp Quarter. So let’s learn together, courtesy of the generally reliable informational juggernaut that is Wikipedia:

The name “Gaslamp Quarter” is a reference to the gas lamps that were common in San Diego in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Four new gaslamps have been installed at the intersection of Market Street and 5th Avenue to evoke that time.

So there you go: The Gaslamp Quarter is called the Gaslamp Quarter because gaslamps used to be prevalent in that area of the city. Who could’ve guessed?

My Sunday afternoon wanderings were primarily motivated by a desire to get the lay of the land. One drawback of San Diego as a Winter Meetings host is that the myriad events were spread between three locations, meaning that one needed to know exactly how long it would take to get from place to place to place. This also resulted in a general dissipation of the energy that permeates the Winter Meetings, as a result of attendees being dispersed along such a wide swath of space. The reality is that the Winter Meetings have become such a huge event that there are very few locations that can accommodate it in its entirety. (Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel, a frequent Winter Meetings host, is probably the most well-equipped in this regard.)

But being forced to walk up and down Harbor Drive (or the bayfront boardwalk that runs parallel to it) is hardly something to complain about. It’s a most picturesque environment, something I really began to appreciate as the sun went down on Sunday evening.

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As day transformed into night, I changed into khakis and a blazer (the most formal attire I could muster) and headed to the Hilton so that I could attend the annual Winter Meetings Banquet. Traditionally this event had been held on Thursday, the last night of the Winter Meetings, after the vast majority of attendees (including me) had cleared out of town. Moving it to Sunday seemed like a smart move on the part of the organizers, especially since this year’s iteration featured San Diego broadcasting icon Dick Enberg as emcee and Bud Selig as a special guest. A-listers!

Here’s a view from the cheap seats, as Enberg chatted up the outgoing commish on a variety of topics. Both men were fans of Minor League Baseball during a very different era. Selig spoke about rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers during the team’s days in the American Association, while Enberg was partial to the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League.

IMG_0499A recurring feature of the Winter Meetings Banquet is the (literal) crowning of that year’s “King of Baseball.” This monarchical title is bestowed upon a veteran executive in recognition of a lifetime spent in the game. 2014’s King of Baseball is one Bill Valentine, whose career in the sport began in 1951 when, at the age of 18, he became the youngest umpire in professional baseball history. Later, he spent more than three decades as the general manager of the Arkansas Travelers.

Here, King Bill poses with Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. Valentine then took the podium in order to deliver a speech peppered with vintage jokes of the “Take my wife…please” variety. (He did not talk about the time that a Texas League umpire went through 84 baseballs during the course of two ballgames, but, fortunately, his profanity-tinged rant on that incident has been preserved for posterity.)

kingOh, and for the record: I interviewed Bill Valentine the next day. The results of that rollicking conversation can be read HERE, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

After the Banquet, while standing in front of the Hilton, I happened upon the official Brandiose Winter Meetings party bus. Brandiose, as you may know, is the company responsible for many recent Minor League re-branding efforts. (Including recent efforts such as the Pawtucket Red Sox and Biloxi Shuckers.)

IMG_0501As they have during the past several years, Brandiose commissioned this vehicle to pick up their once (and perhaps future) Minor League clients from the airport and deliver them to the host hotel. This year held a special significance as Jason Klein and Casey White, the childhood friends who founded the company, are San Diego natives. So, while standing in front of this roving Brandiose billboard, I asked Klein to tell me a few things about the city that the average person might not know. His response: 

The Navy trains dolphins to hunt for mines in the San Diego Bay.

– The Dole company ships massive amounts of bananas to the United States via the San Diego Port. Oklahoma City Dodgers broadcaster Alex Freedman tweeted about this the following day:

– San Diego is the craft beer capital of America.

– John Spreckels, at one time the wealthiest man in San Diego, played a huge role in the city’s early 20th century rise to prominence. Spreckels was aware that corner real estate commanded more money, and thus lobbied to create short city blocks that would result in, yes, more corner real estate.

And that’ll do it as regards Day One of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. And, yes, there will be plenty more where this came from….

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Julie Brady, December 10, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, her fourth and (for now) final installment, Julie Brady 

Read all of Julie’s posts HERE.  

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“I shall have to think about it… I’ll do it.”

-Roger De Bris, The Producers

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

-Morpheus, The Matrix

“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, job seekers of the PBEO job fair!

-Aragorn, Return of the King, basically

A great thing about the Winter Meetings is that, when you don’t have to stress out about finding a job, you can really just sort of hang out, enjoy yourself, and watch the chaos. There’s so much happening at any given time that it’s not hard to find something to do.

Since I had an abundance of free time on Wednesday, thanks to my new status as Employed American, I decided to go sightsee the stars at the Hyatt until the Trade Show opened for the day. I set up on the second-ish floor, where MLB Network and other TV and radio stations were located, and tried to act as if I weren’t blatantly using other peoples’ job duties as entertainment. No sir, nothing here on this wall but us flies.

As it turns out, I had chosen a great location. Several baseball power players walked back and forth, some even hanging out in small clusters in front of me. Most of them I didn’t recognize, but there’s a look that certain old guys in nice suits have that screams, “I make big decisions!” A few of them I did recognize, though: Kenny Williams, John Hart, Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein (with a fairly sizable posse), Kim Ng and Terry Ryan, at the very least. I figured that probably none of them were interested in talking to one of the millions of early-20ish people hanging around, so I stayed put and just creepily watched. No regrets.

After a while, I went and grabbed lunch with Liana and then went to the Trade Show. This was strategically planned— since it was the last day, we knew that they would be handing out free stuff left and right. That’s another thing that Liana is good at, in addition to being able to talk to anyone about anything: getting free stuff. I’m actually writing this from under a very cozy Winter Meetings blanket courtesy of MV Sport. Additional gains were a glasses case made out of baseball material, checkered sunglasses and a huge freaking bar of chocolate from a health insurance company. It made packing for the flight back a little more difficult, but again: no regrets.

I had a final interview that afternoon with Lara Juras, Vice President of HR with the Atlanta Braves, although it was purely informational since I had already accepted Inland Empire’s job offer. It turns out that Lara Juras is one of the coolest and nicest people around, and she got me all preemptively excited about next year’s Winter Meetings, especially the Women in Baseball seminar. She also turned out to be a friend of Mike Veeck’s, which I am all about. It went really well, and it was nice walking out of the interview room one last time without having to worry.

Then it was Gala time at Petco Park. It was definitely top three on my list of “Strangest Events I Have Ever Gone To” (below a Flaming Lips concert but above the Macy’s Day Parade). I don’t really know how to explain it other than I feel pretty confident that the decorations were planned by someone who has never experienced winter but has very strong feelings about what winter is like. Not that it was bad! But it was definitely interesting. Bubbles masquerading as snow, an actual pile of snow brought in to create a sledding experience, girls in plastic balls and girls doing acrobatic stunts hanging from ribbons, a Christmas train, an inflatable snow globe… it was very surreal. At the Gala you could see a very clear difference between those of us from warm states and those of us from cold states. Warm-staters were out of their minds with joy; cold-staters exchanged knowing glances.

There was also an abundant amount of free food and drinks, which was literally sweet (I embarked on a scavenger hunt for chocolate cake pops after a heads-up from my new boss. Amazing). We spent a lot of the evening hanging out with the Kane County Cougars contingent, and it was nice catching up. It was all capped off by a guided tour of the Padres clubhouse. Petco is a beautiful ballpark, and I look forward to someday getting to see it when it’s not living a double life as a Dali-esque winter wonderland.

Then the party was over and they kicked us all out and we said our goodbyes and headed home. The 65 degree temperature change I experienced today was made easier by the knowledge that it’s only temporary; in about three weeks, I will be living in an entirely different climate.

This week in San Diego went about as well as I could have possibly hoped. I met some awesome people, did some really cool things and ate a lot of food. Not every industry has an annual event of this scope and entertainment, and that’s just another way among so many in which I’m extremely lucky. I can’t thank everyone who helped me out enough (Ben! Looking at you for the opportunity to force people to read what I have to say!), and I’m sure the connections I’ve made here will persist throughout the years. Let me go full cheese here to conclude: I can’t believe it’s over, but I know that it’s only just beginning.

Winter Meetings by the Numbers!

3: number of weeks that the Winter Meetings felt like they lasted

4: number of days the Winter Meetings actually lasted

70: degrees in San Diego

25: degrees in Chicago

10: number of Important Baseball Executives who, in the span of an observed two hour period, tried to go into an out-of-order bathroom and got confused (most prominent: Mike Scioscia)

4: hours of sleep a night

6: hours after standing next to Dick Enberg at the Trade Show that I realized that it was Dick Enberg

Too numerous to count: number of times pointing out how weird it is to hear Christmas music while you’re outside sweating

Legion: number of job seekers

Bunches: amount of free stuff from the trade show

14: number of interviews I had, canceled, or had to turn down

1: job offer received and accepted

66: with “ers,” the name of my new team!

Thanks to Julie for taking the time to write about her job-seeking experiences throughout the Winter Meetings. We’ll check back in with her, and her three employment-seeking compatriots, later in the offseason. Stay tuned! 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Darius Thigpen, December 10, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his fourth and (for now) final installment, Darius gives thanks, ponders his options and makes movie references aplenty.  

Read all of Darius’ posts HERE

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Day Four at the Winter Meetings: Where in the World Where Will Carmen Sandiego Be?

“Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that got out of hand really fast.” –Ron Burgundy.

Come on. You had to expect a bevy of Anchorman references at some point. Sixty percent of the time those jokes work every time.

I’m done. Just allow me a BAXTER!!! And I love lamp. Now I promise I’m done….

So today’s title is more clever than I thought when I initially planned another way to work a “San Diego” reference into my final journal.

At the moment I feel like an ACME Detective trying to figure out where the newest chase will take me. Plus, there was a Thigpen who starred in the show as The Chief. Works for me. Now that I’ve gotten the awful allusions and such out of my system let’s get serious.

“It’s competitive, but not cutthroat.” –Several broadcasters, on breaking into the field of baseball broadcasting.

That’s real on both fronts. It’s hard to get into broadcasting. Ben Gellman-Chomsky was here for his fifth Winter Meetings as a job seeker and he gave me great advice throughout the stay. He was fighting me for several positions. We did a podcast together each day. We each made the first cut on broadcasting jobs which only one person could get.

I’m happy to say that he will not walk away empty-handed. Ben was offered a job and accepted it Wednesday. I’m excited for Ben as he continues to grow in baseball and he takes on his new endeavor.

Competitive, not cutthroat. He and I became good friends during this trip to San Diego and hopefully we’ll stay in touch as we each try to move up in the world of broadcasting even if we’re on rival teams or competing for jobs. Maybe we’ll wind up working together one day.

As for me? No job offers yet, but I had seven interviews and that’s something I’m thankful for. After talking to some of the people in hiring positions I can say that the “broadcast” category was the slimmest in terms of jobs available, but by far the most popular to apply for. One team had 174 applicants for 15 interviews and only one person will get the job.

Looking ahead, just knowing I made the cut in a situation like that makes my day. I came here seeking employment, but even if I don’t get a job directly from this trip to California it’s not a failure. I loved getting to spend time with the other job seekers, broadcasters, GMs, sales representatives, graphic designers, promotions team members and everyone else at the Winter Meetings. We all love baseball, love sports and are willing to work hard at jobs we love to do. Meeting a bunch of other like-minded people who were all genuinely nice throughout this taxing process made this trip great. No matter what else happens, this experience was not a waste.

So as I say my final goodbyes to the wonderful city of San Diego and I prepare to depart for the airport in 90 minutes at 6 a.m. PST today (Thursday) I know this experience was definitely worth it.

I appreciate everyone for taking time to check out the blog posts and thanks for stopping by. You stay classy, Ben’s Biz Blog readers.

Thanks to Darius for taking the time to write about his job-seeking experiences throughout the Winter Meetings. We’ll check back in with him, and his three employment-seeking compatriots, later in the offseason. Stay tuned! 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Sean Banks, December 10, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his fourth and (for now) final installment, Sean Banks puts the proverbial bow on his 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings experience. 

Read all of Sean’s posts HERE

SeanBanks

My phone tells me that it is 35 degrees in Evansville, Indiana, this morning with a chance of a final exam. Who leaves San Diego for that?

I do. That guy sitting in the Atlanta airport for five hours pecking away on his laptop. Was leaving necessary? Maybe. Clinically insane? Definitely. At the time of writing this journal, I find myself searching for any logical reason to not go back to school today. I was about two rash decisions away from accepting an airline credit and giving up my seat on the plane from San Diego to avoid leaving, if only for a few more hours. Somewhere along the way I tweeted that these past few days constituted the best experience of my life. And that wasn’t an exaggeration.

It didn’t really sink in that we had to leave until we were putting our bags into storage at the hotel and heading to the Convention Center for the final few hours of the Job Fair. We crossed the train tracks and waited for the walk sign to tell us when we could safely cross. I don’t really take orders very well and got pretty tired of that machine yelling at me to wait every day. It’s fitting though, right? All we did in San Diego was wait…and then wait some more.

If you guys didn’t catch Ben’s Vine about the escalator at the Convention Center doubling as a portal into another dimension of space and time, you should definitely go check it out. But, despite its futuristic look, I could argue that it (the escalator) functions in much the same fashion. Once landed on the other side of the portal, an outsider would likely feel very out of place. The baseball world is full of interesting people, but add in a little desperation and a ton of passion, and someone who doesn’t understand the baseball world will think that he has slipped through a wormhole to another dimension. And that’s the best part.

Once we climbed the Stairway of Opportunity (I’m just full of ridiculous analogies and inspirational idiomatic expressions this morning), I found my name on another interview sheet and quickly signed up for a time. Then more waiting. And more $4 Cokes — they ran out of Dr. Pepper. I’ve always been good at interviewing so I don’t really get nervous anymore. I crushed the interview and now find myself wishing someone would hire me. I’m not bitter or frustrated…just impatient.

Waiting is a lot better with friends, though. And we made plenty of those while passing the time in between trips to the job posting and interview posting rooms. I had an online pre-departure meeting for my study abroad and learned that listening to six different people and paying attention to a PowerPoint presentation is essentially impossible. But, I made my best effort to do both because the relationships I have formed with people who enjoy baseball just as much as I do are more important than anything else that happened this weekend. I am a part of two fraternities on my campus, and many people say Minor League Baseball is like a fraternity. I definitely see the similarities. I’m just waiting to get initiated.

I’m already gushing about this experience, and I can’t wait to get home and tell everyone about it. It would be awesome if I had an email tomorrow morning with a job offer, but if I don’t I’ll still tell all of my friends and professors that this was the greatest experience of my life thus far. My only regret is that we couldn’t make it to the Gala on Wednesday evening. We didn’t make it to the Gala in Orlando either, and it was my fault both times. Or I guess you could blame my professors. I’m tired of finals. I’m tired of school. But it will all be over soon, and I’ll start my adventure of a career in Minor League Baseball. After all, who doesn’t like adventuring?

So stay classy, San Diego. And commence the countdown to the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville.

Thanks to Sean for taking the time to write about his job-seeking experiences throughout the Winter Meetings. We’ll check back in with her, and her three employment-seeking compatriots, later in the offseason. Stay tuned! 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Katie Carlson, December 10, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, her fourth and (for now) final installment, Katie pounds the pavement one last time before returning to a world of optimistic uncertainty.  

Read all of Katie’s posts HERE

KatieCarlson

I had some free time this morning, and did not have much planned for the day, so I sat down at a table in the Hyatt and began writing down my takeaways from this week. I wrote about uncertainty, which is something that plagues all of us job seekers. Coming into the Winter Meetings, I was uncertain what to expect. I was uncertain if I would be able to meet anyone in Baseball Operations. I was uncertain if anything would come out of this. Taking the initiative to come to Winter Meetings was scary because it is one of the largest steps I could take to really put myself out there in the baseball world, and with putting yourself out there comes uncertainty and fear of failure.

My day was filled with uncertainty and many twists and turns. Initially when I sat down to write, I said that “things were calming down a bit” as the week progressed. Boy did I speak too soon. My day took a 180, and I lined up four meetings at the last minute. I even decided to take a later flight back to school.

I got to the Hyatt at 8:30 am, and met up with one of the agents I worked for last summer. I thought our meeting would just be to catch up, but instead he very kindly offered to put me in contact with a few people in Baseball Ops for a couple of organizations. He also encouraged me to look at the 2014 Baseball America Directory, which has all the names and contact information for every MLB front office.  I hustled over to the Trade Show and grabbed a copy of my own. I then made my last trek back to the Hyatt. (Thank God because I’m not sure how much more my feet could take!)

Then I had back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings. Some were informational, while some were more like interviews that ended with a plan to remain in touch in the coming weeks. Maybe an internship would be in my future. Again, I’d like to reiterate what I said on Day Three: I have been so surprised and grateful to all the people who have been so open with me about their experiences in baseball, and I am shocked by the kindness that everyone has exhibited.

As you’re reading this, I have already flown back to Stanford, taken my final exam, and am probably on my flight back to San Diego for Winter Break. So I’m kind of back where you first met me — on my way to San Diego, still looking for a job, still facing uncertainty. But this time I’m certain about one thing: A career in baseball is for me. Just like my job seeking process, there’s a lot of uncertainty and circumstances that cannot be predicted in baseball. You may have a rain delay. Heck, you might even have a bee delay! But as one of my favorite movies, Fever Pitch, puts it, “At 1:05 or 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anything else in your life do that?” Even though you may be thrown a curveball, everything works out in the end. That ended up being my day today, and I hope that happens for my long-term career as well.

Thanks to Katie for taking the time to write about her job-seeking experiences throughout the Winter Meetings. We’ll check back in with her, and her three employment-seeking compatriots, later in the offseason. Stay tuned! 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Sean Banks, December 9, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his third installment, Sean Banks revels in the present, thinks about his future, and gets himself in an L. Frank Baum frame of mind.  

Read all of Sean’s posts HERE

SeanBanks

If only Charlene could see me now.

The good luck Winter Meetings t-shirt served me well this afternoon in my noble quest to become a squire within the halls of Castle Minor League Baseball. I landed my first interview today and feel like I knocked it out of the park (like baseball, get it?). I will be awaiting my suitor’s call to take the next step.

After all, it’s a long, drawn-out process. Go to college, they said. Get a degree, they said. Apply for jobs, they said. Well, here I am applying for jobs and living the dream, taking interviews as they come and hoping for my first big break. Sounds like a pretty solid Tuesday.

I won’t bore you with the drab details of the morning. We got to the Convention Center in suit and tie and were prepared to take over the world. Not much was different today. It was a lot like yesterday. Lots of sitting. Lots of waiting. Lots of walking. Plenty of $4 Dr. Peppers. But, the time seemed to pass a little more quickly today. And for those of you still counting, I was the only one of my group of friends that had an interview. Put another mark in my win column.

What should not be lost in all of this Job Fair business, though, is that I completed all of the requirements for my health class today at the Convention Center and got my Music Literature paper turned in last night after a super long day. One week from today, I will have met all the requirements for a degree in music (provided I pass finals) and will be preparing to fly to the Dominican Republic for my study abroad and to obtain my Spanish degree. I grind at the Job Fair because I can’t wait to tell “them” how I made it. Ideally, I’ll land a job offer for a position when I get back from the DR in May and everything will be just a big mess of mushy happiness. Stay tuned for that.

Snap back to reality. Today went a lot like this: arrive, lunch, interview, sushi, bar. I’m a huge sushi fan so after the job posting room closed at five o’clock, we headed down to the marina to enjoy some raw fish by the water in the fresh air. Food always tastes a little better when you’ve had a good day. It’s also a lot easier to network. After dinner, we walked over to the Hilton and then to the Hyatt where we watched the Jon Lester news break in person and reconnected with some fellow job seekers who are trying just as hard to break in. I can’t get over how exciting this atmosphere is. I can’t get over how much I want to work in baseball for the rest of my life.

There is only one disappointing thing about this whole experience. And that’s that we have to go home tomorrow. Tomorrow night, I’ll catch a red-eye flight to Atlanta which will connect me to Evansville where, upon arrival, I’ll take the most demanding and, frankly, unnecessary final exam I’ve ever taken. Then I’ll have another final on Friday and a couple more after that. Here’s wishing the Winter Meetings were taking place all the time and we could all just live here. There’s definitely no place like home. Dorothy wasn’t wrong.

But home is where you make it. I came to the Job Fair, made the most out of these past few days, saw what I could and learned a lot. Up next? Wednesday at the Job Fair, where I hope to take the next steps toward finding my mess of mushy happiness in Minor League Baseball.

Toto, where you at, dawg?

Stay tuned for one more update from Sean this week, which will run on the blog Friday. (Thursday is a travel day for all involved in this endeavor).

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Darius Thigpen, December 9, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his third installment, Darius Thigpen plays the dating game and the waiting game. 

Read all of Darius’ posts HERE.

DariusThigpen

Day Three at the Winter Meetings: The Dating Game

“I hope the rest of your interviews go well… but not too well.”

Up until this point for me the Winter Meetings had been a lot of applying, conversing, shaking hands and waiting. There was lots and lots of waiting. Tuesday was finally the day I got to run around and actually interview for positions I applied for. It was truly a great problem to have.

I had four interviews scheduled for Tuesday and two for Wednesday at the time of writing this. That’s about half of the jobs I applied for or what I consider to be a whole heck of a lot.

Most of the broadcasters at the Job Fair have been frustrated. There are something like 60 (probably a lot more) broadcasters here all applying for a dozen positions and only five to 10 for each position will even get an interview. I’ve heard from other broadcasters that it’s a totally real scenario to show up to the Meetings and walk away without so much as an interview. Broadcasting is a very competitive industry to break into and tough to move up in, but us broadcast guys and gals can’t get discouraged; we have to stick with it.

Personally, I’m thankful just to have interviews lined up. It’s my first PBEO Job Fair, but in the past when applying for jobs I’d send out 40 applications. I’d hear back from five of those teams and be told within a week from three of them that I wasn’t the guy. That leaves two that would give me an interview and one where I’d get a job offer. Not exactly “show up and get interviews and job offers thrown at you.”

Still, what the Job Fair provides is an opportunity to network. In the end, most of these teams will hire someone that they know. For us broadcasters the team’s Director of Broadcasting is making the decision. He will want to work with someone he can trust and generally get along with over the course of a baseball season. You’ll be together every day over the course of a long, long, baseball season so the two of you should probably like each other.

So, regarading the whole interview process. Many hirers (that’s a word, right?) opted to make use of the interview room in the convention center and some decided to go a different route and meet up at one of the hotels or the Trade Show. Both had strengths and weaknesses.

Meeting in the interview room was straightforward. The teams were assigned to a number of tables and even if you didn’t know who you were interviewing with the board outside the room had the team interview tables so you at least knew exactly where to be. Simple.

The problem is that the whole thing kind of felt like speed dating. There are hundreds of other conversations going on and inadvertently some of those bleed into yours. I overheard someone else reference Ohio State and it distracted me for a second. (I should probably just get checked for Buckeye Fever, though.)

Meeting away from the interviewing room was nice. It was more relaxed, and we enjoyed the weather and light ocean air of San Diego at dusk. It was a warm day leading into a crisp night with not a drop of humidity in the atmosphere. A picture perfect day.

The only problem was that it came with its own distractions. Joggers ran by, and I think Theo Epstein passed by my interview a couple of times (was he scouting me?) and there was the ever-problematic yet unavoidable staring-into-the-sun issue. No matter how you arrange seating someone will have the sun staring them in the face.

Overall the interviewing process was good for me. I got my questions answered and no one laughed me off or told me to get lost. If this was a speed dating session I would have gotten a hug and maybe a phone number or two rather than a slap to the face.

I have no clue what happens at speed dating, but that at least sounds like what could happen.

Stay tuned for one more update from Darius this week, which will run on the blog Friday. (Thursday is a travel day for all involved). In the meantime, check him out on Instagram

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz 

Winter Meetings Job Seeker Journals: Katie Carlson, December 9, 2014

Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, her third installment, Katie Carlson reflects on how a little kindness goes a long way. 

Read all of Katie’s posts HERE

KatieCarlson

On Day One, one of the most important messages that speakers got across to us was how the baseball industry is truly about connecting with people and creating memories. As I listened to my favorite country music on the drive home tonight, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic that tomorrow is the last day of the Winter Meetings. I don’t know what I expected coming into this week, but my experience has exceeded my wildest dreams.

I’m in a different position than most job seekers. Because I am still in college and will be graduating in June (Stanford is on the quarter system), I am somewhat limited regarding the types of jobs for which I can apply. There are few jobs in the Job Postings room that fit my schedule, and even fewer in baseball operations (though I am also interested in media relations and would be thrilled to work with a team in that capacity as well). Because of this dilemma, I really haven’t spent much time in the Job Postings room this week. As I wrote yesterday, I’ve spent most of my time networking and hoping that a job may come out of it down the road. What I did not realize coming into Winter Meetings was how willing people would be to spend the time to help little old me, giving advice and helping me in any way that they can. These people are making blockbuster deals and still take the time to sit down with me. All I can say is Wow and Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I started off the day by grabbing coffee with an Assistant General Manager for an MLB club. He gave me some great advice. Within Baseball Ops there are various specialties — Scouting, Player Development, Analytics and more general management, for example. He said to try to narrow down which department I wanted to be in, and focus on getting as much experience in that area as possible. That means taking online classes in statistical modeling if I want to go into analytics, or creating a blog and going out to scout as many high school/college/minor league games as possible. Learning more about one particular area would help make you a specialist, which would make you more valuable to an organization.

In the afternoon I met with a family friend, who has been so unbelievably helpful in guiding me through the networking process. He has known my dad since college, and is one of those guys who seems to know absolutely everyone. He has brokered several meetups for me and continues to go above and beyond. I only hope that one day I can repay these people or pay it forward to others dreaming of breaking into the industry. Sorry to be all sentimental, but I really mean it.

Between my various coffee dates, I resigned myself to a spot at the bar and attempted to study for my final exam on the neurological processes underlying auditory and visual perception. Sounds thrilling, right? Definitely not the easiest thing to do when Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff are standing at the bar next to you.

I tried to last as long as possible at the Hyatt lobby bar, getting as much networking in as possible before I depart tomorrow, but as I’m sure everyone who is attending Winter Meetings can attest, it is very draining. I spent a lot of time talking with my coworkers from Beverly Hills Sports Council again today. I was extremely fortunate to have worked with such an ambitious, yet kind and passionate, group of people last summer, and it has been great to reconnect with them. As I said at the beginning of this post, the baseball industry is really special because of the people. Being able to reconnect with past co-workers, meet fellow job seekers and learn from professionals has been an invaluable experience. Everyone is united by the love of the game. As the great Tommy Lasorda said, “It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I’m just a part of it.” I hope that this is just the beginning, and that I will be lucky enough to be part of baseball for many years to come.

Stay tuned for one more update from Katie this week, which will run on the blog Friday. (Thursday is a travel day for all involved in this endeavor).

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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