Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

In With the New

Happy 2015 to you and, should you be the possessive type, yours. The first post of this calendar year, which you are reading now, shall be nothing less and nothing more than a good old fashioned bouillabaisse. A bewildering array of interesting tidbits are offered therein, and the only thing these tidbits have in common with one another is  — you guessed it — Minor League Baseball.

Let’s start with a hot-off-the-virtual-presses promo that was announced today by the Kane County Cougars. The team is currently staging a “Social Media Virtual Championship Ring Unveiling,” which I believe just might be the first such thing of its kind.

Do not adjust your set:

Championship Ring BlurredHow it works:

Beginning [January 5], the Cougars will post a blurred image of the ring design on their social media channels and fans, through a pre-determined quantity of Facebook ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ as well as Twitter re-tweets and ‘likes’ on Instagram, will help virtually “unveil” the ring design, which will be released in its entirety to the public this Friday.

This reminds me of a long-gestating but little-acted-upon article idea I have had: What Minor League teams have the best championship rings? If you think the team that you follow (or work for) might qualify for such a distinction, then please get in touch.

The holidays may be over, but the Holiday League goes on. I am speaking, of course, of the as-of-now theoretical league created by logo designer John Hartwell (of the eponymous Hartwell Studio Works). Last month, the  2014 North Pole Reindeer baseball card set was unveiled, featuring the starting line-up of the North Pole Reindeer. A lot of work has gone into these; each card features an full color front and back, and every Reindeer has his own Baseball-Reference page.

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The North Pole Reindeer open the 2015 Holiday League season on April 9 against the Arborville Huggers.

 

Every year, Minor League teams vie for the coveted honor of “alternate logo most likely to inspire scores of Space Jam references on Twitter.” In 2015, it looks like this distinction will be going to the Rome Braves.

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The R-Braves maintain that their inspiration for the logo came from a far weightier source:

The logo features a Roman soldier’s helmet on a baseball with the letter ”R” on the front. The helmet was used by the military of ancient Rome from 753 BC – AD 476 and pays tribute to the name of our hometown of Rome, GA with a red, blue, and gray color scheme.

Did you know? A new Minor League mascot-themed children’s book has been released, and this book features a “very special guest appearance by Darryl Strawberry.” What more could you ask for as regards literary material for beginning readers?

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Finally, what do these four disconnected images all have in common?

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Yep, you guessed it: They are all proud winners of the first-annual “Bizzie Awards,” created and then (virtually) distributed by me at the end of last month. Everyone else seems to be giving out awards at the end of the year, so why can’t I?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

That Time That a Minor League Baseball Mascot Crashed My Brother’s Wedding Reception

Last month my brother, Andy, and his fiance, Jen, got married.

File photo of my brother, the groom

File photo of my brother, the groom

As you can see, my brother is a real catch and Jen is a lucky woman. The two lovebirds got married at the Radisson Station Hotel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, located just minutes away from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ home of PNC Field. The proximity of these two locales gave me a half-formed idea and, like many not-totally-thought-out endeavors, it all started on Twitter. I had just posted my detailed recap of the RailRiders’ stadium experience on this blog, and Scranton was on the brain:

And that’s all it took. The RailRiders accepted the invite, on behalf of CHAMP, and the following Saturday he did indeed appear at the reception. Really, you couldn’t miss him. (All photos by Two Sticks Studios, except the one not marked with the studio URL.)

Hill_410-LCHAMP is a species of indeterminate origin whose name is indeed written in all caps. Perhaps, like CHUD, his name is an acronym. Crazy Happy Amazing Mascot Party? At any rate, that’s what commenced once CHAMP walked into the room. He appeared at the perfect time — all of the requisite speeches, glass clinking, food eating and awkward “I can’t remember the last time I saw you”/”I’m going to pretend that I know who you are” wedding conversationalizing had already taken place; all that was left to do was hit the dance floor.

twosticksIn the above photo, you can see me in the background rubbing my hands together with a worried expression on my face. I look like a sad old man, which is a role that I’ve been training for my entire life. This is because I told very few people about CHAMP’s appearance, and was worried that, somehow, it wouldn’t go over well and that I’d ruin the whole wedding and thus bring shame and disgrace upon my family name for generations to come. Fortunately, these concerns were unfounded. In this photo, Jen is in the background giving me a hug. The bride’s approval means that everything is okay! The groom’s opinion means nothing.

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So party on, CHAMP. Everyone loves you.

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CHAMP was great, a true pro. He circulated freely around the room, taking the time to engage with anyone interested in engaging with him. In this picture, four-year-old Elle expresses reservations toward meeting a heretofore un-encountered creature.

Hill_451-M Success!

Hill_454-MBye CHAMP, thanks for stopping by. I give your appearance two horns up.

twosticks7A huge thanks to CHAMP and the RailRiders for making this happen. Also, a big thanks to Scranton-based Two Sticks Studios, who did a phenomenal job in documenting not just CHAMP’s appearance but the entire wedding. If I was to ever get married in Scranton (hey, you never know), then I would totally hire those guys. Their own post on the evening’s mascot cameo can be read HERE.

And that’ll do it for my 2014 blogging year. Thanks, as always, to those who took the time to read it. My hope for 2015, as with every year, is that the material on this blog is better than that which came before and that its audience continues to grow. Enjoy your holidays — that’s an order — and see you on the flip side.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

 

 

 

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

Day Four: Wednesday, December 10

I carry a notebook with me throughout the Winter Meetings, so that I may document that which I see and observe. Also, because it makes me feel legitimate. I mean, why would I be carrying a notebook around with me if I wasn’t a big-time writer? People who see me, even if they don’t know who I am, they still know I’m the real deal once they see that I’m a guy with a notebook. Clearly, important words are being written therein.

Or not.

All that I have written in my notebook regarding the Winter Meeting events of Wednesday, Dec. 10, is “Writing, Lynn U., Job Fair, lunch, writing, Trade Show.” Fortunately, these events are still fresh in my mind, their myriad sharp edges and curved, sloping ambiguities as yet unravaged by the inexorable passage of time. So, please, allow me to elaborate. For the purposes of this narrative, it is now Wednesday morning in San Diego.

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After an a.m. writing session, I headed down the bayfront boardwalk toward the San Diego Convention Center, walking at a leisurely enough pace while San Diego’s legions of workout warriors (rollerbladers, bikers, jogging moms pushing strollers) blazed on past. My biggest workout came courtesy of this staircase, which led from the boardwalk to the second floor of the Convention Center. I felt woozy going up this thing, trying to walk in a straight line up the stairs but inevitably drifting toward the railing. Did MC Escher design this?

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After a few minutes of dazed and confused San Diego Convention Center wandering, I ran into a guy named Brandon Caudill. Rather than register for the PBEO Job Fair, he opted for a DIY employment-seeking technique.

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IMG_0534A message from Brandon, with the incessant clanging of train warning bells in the background.

Brandon didn’t seem to be in the best of spirits, perhaps as a result of having spent three days wandering around San Diego while wearing a homemade sandwich board. I admired his moxie, however, and hope that he will once again be able to dress up as a dragon.

Bidding adieu and good luck, I then hustled into the Trade Show in order to partake in what has become a Winter Meetings tradition for me: speaking to Lynn University sports management students. Each year, professor Ted Curtis procures a booth at the Trade Show, inviting various industry luminaries (operating at various degrees of wattage) to stop by and give a little insight into his or her profession.

Given the travel involved from Boca Raton to San Diego, there were fewer Lynn University students present than in previous years. Hear I am speaking to one of them.

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Photo: Ted Curtis

From there it was back to the Job Fair, to speak with Maggie O’Keeffe. I first met Maggie, 20, at the Promo Seminar in Oklahoma City this past September and became intrigued by her quest to become the first female play-by-play announcer in Major League Baseball history. (Or at least one of the first.) My MiLB.com feature on Maggie can be read HERE.

IMG_0537While prowling the Job Fair area, I ran into Job Seeker Journal writer Darius Thigpen, who was participating in a podcast taping with fellow job seeker Ben Gellman-Chomsky.

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I ended up inviting myself on as a guest to the podcast, and then got kicked off after delivering one too many puns. (For many people, “one too many puns” = one.) This was Gellman-Chomsky’s fifth time attending the Job Fair and — spoiler alert — he got a job.

People don’t get hired based on the strength of their business cards alone, but this certainly couldn’t have hurt. 1986 Topps for life!

IMG_0588Upon bidding adieu to the Trade Show, lunch was consumed while sitting in Petco Park’s open-to-the-public bleacher seating area. Fake snow-making was in progress.

IMG_0543Afterwards, I took a few minutes to appreciate the accomplishments of Padres icon Jerry Coleman.

IMG_0544It was then back to the Convention Center for one last run through the Trade Show.

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I had a small list of vendors who I wanted to interview for future MiLB.com stories or blog posts, but my efforts in this regard were largely fruitless. The show was now in its final hour, and a “Let’s blow this joint” attitude prevailed. Many of the vendors had already packed up and left, and many others were in the process of doing so. I understand how exhausting it is to be a Trade Show vendor, on your feet all day while hustling product with a permanent smile, but why not stick it out until the bitter end? You never know who might come along.

This representative of the XPogo stunt team stuck it out until the end, and I am now rewarding him for his perseverance via the posting of this Vine video. (Hey, it’s better than nothing). Coming soon to a ballpark near you?

Closing time, the Trade Show sells no alcohol, so sneak in your whisky and beer… (If you’ve got better Trade Show-related parody lyrics, then, by all means, please get in touch.)

IMG_0559The mannequins had been stripped of their clothing and the floor had been stripped of its carpet. Clearly it was time to leave. After a brief constitutional in the hotel room, it was time to head back to Petco Park for the annual Winter Meetings Gala. This is the eighth such event I’ve been to, and the most memorable. Industry in a Holiday Wonderland.

I’ve always enjoyed the Gala, no matter the locale, because it signifies the end of the Winter Meetings. I am fortunate to be able to attend this event, but is inherently stressful — a lot of frantic speedwalking from one locale to another, a lot of impromptu conversations with people who I may not see for another year (or whom I’m meeting for the first time) and a lot of harried writing sessions in lobbies, hallways and hotel rooms. No matter what I’m doing, I always feel like I’m missing out on something else. It’s just overwhelming.

So when the Gala rolls around, it is accompanied by a profound feeling of relief. The Winter Meetings are done, save for one last chance for me to walk around and wait for people who work in Minor League Baseball to accost me with compliments regarding the work I do. I need this ego fuel, keeping it in reserve for a long, cold months ahead.

A good photographer, or at least someone who didn’t have a phone in one hand and a drink in the other, could have gotten some great shots from this event. There were elves and Santa and the Grinch and fairies wearing ice skates on the premises. A sledding hill was installed on the outfield, tours of the clubhouse were available and fireworks went off promptly at nine o’clock.

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IMG_0575A walking snow globe.

IMG_0578The evening kept right on rolling after the Gala concluded, with many attendees heading across the street to a party co-sponsored by Brandiose (whose founders are San Diego natives) and the Lake Elsinore Storm (a Padres affiliate located just 75 miles away). This Vine sums up the atmosphere, and it also includes a cameo by elusive Minoring in Twitter scribe Danny Wild.

It was a long night that resulted in virtually no sleep, as early the next morning I was at the airport in order to fly on back to New York City. I slept the whole way, but not before overhearing the following while waiting to board.

And that’s all I’ve got, the well has run dry. Not only are the Winter Meetings in the books, but my Winter Meetings-related blogging efforts are in the books as well. I hope you found these posts to be illuminating and edifying.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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.  

JulieBrady

“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

DariusThigpen

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

twitter.com/bensbiz

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

twitter.com/bensbiz

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