Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Guest Post: Why I Love the Charlotte Knights

It’s time for another “Why I Love” guest post, in which a Minor League fan explains what it is they love about their favorite team and why. Today’s guest writer is LaMichael Mitchell, a die-hard fan of Charlotte sports in general and the Charlotte Knights in particular.

To see other “Why I Love” guest posts, click HERE. And If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com.

Why I Love the Charlotte Knights, by LaMichael Mitchell

(Photos courtesy LaMichael Mitchell, unless otherwise indicated)

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When you think of sports in Charlotte, North Carolina, what comes to mind? For many of us, it’s the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, who are coming off of a playoff appearance. There are also the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, who are once again using the Hornets name after a 12-year absence, as well as college basketball. But for me, a die-hard Charlotte sports fan, it’s all about spending summer evenings catching a baseball game inside the warm confines of BB&T Ballpark in uptown Charlotte, cheering on my beloved Charlotte Knights.

Back when I was just 10 years old, in 1994, my parents used to take me to Knights games when they played down in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The team’s home in those days was Knights Stadium, and it was there that I learned about the one thing that I love to do when coming to a game: keeping score. That is something that I still do to this very day.

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Knights Stadium, the team’s home from 1990 through 2013 (Ben’s Biz file photo, circa 2014)

Like many Knights fans, I spent several seasons hoping and wondering: Would the Knights finally come back to a ballpark located within Charlotte city limits? We have a rich and storied baseball heritage here, as Knights alumni include Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Cal Ripken, Jr., Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. That dream became a reality in 2014, when we finally saw our team return to its rightful home in Charlotte.

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I was there for the Opening Night of BB&T Ballpark, in April of last year, and the experience was truly electrifying. Even though the Knights lost in extra innings to the Norfolk Tides, I still had a fun time witnessing a new chapter in Charlotte baseball history. Whenever I attend a game at BB&T Ballpark, I feel welcomed by a warm and friendly staff that is passionate about making the experience at the ballpark fun. This is certainly true of media relations director Tommy “The V” Viola, and also includes the man that made it all happen for the Knights to return home to Charlotte, COO Dan Rajkowski. And I can’t forget Homer the Dragon, as he makes the experience of attending a Charlotte Knights game at BB&T Ballpark fun for kids of all ages.

LaMichael and Homer

LaMichael and Homer

Along with everything else that I mentioned, I can’t forget about the views. The Charlotte skyline is visible from just about anywhere you sit in the ballpark.

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Ben’s Biz file photo

I usually choose the seats in left field, where the Charlotte Panthers’ home of Bank of America Stadium can be seen in the distance. The view from right field isn’t too bad, either.

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Baseball in Charlotte has truly been a way of life for over 100 years. With the recent success of BB&T Ballpark in its record-setting inaugural season, it is no wonder why I love coming to a Knights game. The experience is out of this world. If you’re from in and around the Charlotte area, or if you’re planning to make a visit here during the summer, I would like you to check out a Charlotte Knights game at BB&T Ballpark. Once you attend a game, then you will see for yourself that it’s a great way to enjoy a warm summer night here in Charlotte.

Thanks to LaMichael for taking the time to write this and, again: if YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my “On the Road” post detailing my Charlotte Knights experience during the 2014 season.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Why I Love the Columbus Clippers

After a seven-month hiatus, I am pleased to announce the return of the”Why I Love” series of blog posts. The premise is simple: Each post is written by a Minor League Baseball fan, in which they explain just what it is that they love about their favorite team and why. Today’s guest writer is  Sarah Lukowski, an Ohio State University graduate student. The Buckeyes won the College Football National Championship last night and today is a day of celebration at OSU and throughout the state of Ohio. But, soon enough, it will be time for sports fans in the area and nationwide to turn their attention to baseball. In this post, Lukowski makes the case for her beloved Columbus Clippers.   

To see other “Why I Love” guest posts, click HERE. And If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com.

Why I Love the Columbus Clippers, by Sarah Lukowski

It’s a beautiful evening, one of those summer evenings that seem to last forever. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Columbus, Ohio, on such an evening, there’s no better way than to spend it than at Huntington Park. Or, really, any other kind of evening…or afternoon, or morning. You get the point. That’s almost certainly where you’ll find me if the Clippers are in town.

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Huntington Park, in all its majesty, before the crowd arrives

Huntington Park, a gorgeous stadium, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. What’s not to love about a beautiful diamond? If you sit on the outfield grass on those long summer evenings, you’ll inevitably see a beautiful orange-purple sky as the sun sets behind the first base side of the ballpark. Nights like these are absolute perfection, reminding each and every person in the crowd why they fell in love with the game of baseball. Children roll down the slight incline of the lawn and hope that a home run heads their way.

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The lawn: perfect for relaxing, rolling, home runs, and, in this case, watching Trevor Bauer do his pregame long toss.

Or, if you are like me and want to get closer to the action, you can situate yourself a few yards away home plate. It’s a cliche, but there truly isn’t a bad seat.

The view I enjoy each and every day of the season.

The view I enjoy each and every day of the season.

I have always loved watching sports because of the people and the Columbus Clippers game experience is no different. The staff is always friendly, the fans in the crowd are the type of people you want to hang out with and the guys on the field are the type of players it is easy to cheer for.

And, while you never want guys to get hurt or get sent back down from the Cleveland Indians, it is a part of the game. In recent years I have seen both Michael Bourn…

6and Jason Kipnis.

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When you think “Minor League Baseball season ticket holder” I am probably not who you would imagine. I am a 24-year-old grad student who, while growing up in rural Michigan, fell in love with the game of baseball by cheering on the Battle Cats/Battle Creek Yankees/Battle Creek Rays/Southwest Michigan Rays (the name and affiliation changed frequently). In Columbus, from time to time, curious passersby will ask with some incredulity, “So Sarah, you come here every game?!” To which I always reply with a smile, “Yes, I just really like watching baseball.” This is true, but the full truth would be that the Clippers organization creates an atmosphere that I have loved from the time I arrived in Columbus.

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When I moved to Columbus I knew that I wanted to be a season ticket holder and am grateful that the long-time season ticket holders — shout out to first few rows of Section 9! — have welcomed me with open arms. They tell me stories of the Clippers’ past as a Yankees affiliate, and we chat about Cleveland Indians players past, present and future. Such closeness has allowed generations to grow side-by-side over their mutual love of America’s pastime, a closeness that is truly at the heart of Minor League Baseball.

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One person in particular that makes the Columbus Clippers unique is team historian Joe Santry. I can always count on Joe to tell me an amazing story of Columbus’ baseball past whenever I ask. Joe is one of the true gems of Minor League Baseball and if you haven’t met him yet, I highly recommend making a point to find him at the game. He can be hard to track down, as he is typically documenting the various events that make each game special, but if you do run into him, just ask him for a story. He never disappoints.

Joe Santry, left, and Clippers director of social media Josh Samuels.

Bens Biz file photo: Joe Santry, left, and Clippers director of social media Josh Samuels.

Beyond the people, if great eats are your thing, the Clippers do not skimp on the budget-friendly ballpark meals. I buy hot dogs for 10 cents on Mondays, dollar rib bones on Tuesdays, wings for 50 cents on Wednesday, and celebrate the beginning of the weekend each Friday with music, delicious pulled pork sandwiches, and discounted drinks. I could easily gain 10 pounds each summer feasting on all these ballpark treats. And, as if you needed an added bonus, visiting the various parts of the ballpark where they are sold give you all-new vantage points from which to take in the game.

Bens Biz file photo: Ribs at the Clippers game

Bens Biz file photo: Ribs and a view at the Clippers game

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the entertainment. You can always count on 2013 MiLB Mascot Mania champion Lou Seal to make his way through the crowd. Children shyly approach to give him a high five while their parents look on, camera in hand. The in-game entertainment brings the always crowd-pleasing hot dog race, among tons of other antics and promotions that often define the MiLB experience.

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Ketchup and Mustard race down the first base line. Relish is missing in action.

There is something new happening all the time. But my favorite, from childhood and until now, will always be the Zooperstars! Admittedly, the Zooperstars! are not special to the Clippers organization; they travel to various ballparks throughout the summer. The games are already worth it, but they make it even better. Look them up and if they are at a park near you, YOU MUST GO! Seriously, missing a Zooperstars! game is criminal.

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If you’re a resident of the Columbus area and haven’t gotten to a game, I’m not sure what you could be waiting for — get yourself to the game! If you’re from out of town, it is well worth the trip. To the Clippers organization: Thank you for making each game memorable. I can’t wait to see what the next several years have in store.

Thanks to Sarah  for taking the time to write this and, again: if YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my “On the Road” post detailing my Columbus Clippers experience during the 2014 season

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 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

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

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

twitter.com/bensbiz 

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