Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Mustaches Amidst the Mythical

In one of last week’s posts, I detailed a triumvirate of satirical responses that Minor League teams had come up with in regard to recent events. Well, there’s always more where that came from. One endeavor that I failed to include involved the Eugene Emeralds, who uncovered a bit of fortuitous news in the same week that they unveiled their new Sasquatch logos.

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Take it away, press release, the way you have oh so many times before:

In the same week that the Eugene Emeralds Baseball Club released their new Sasquatch inspired logo, researchers have released a study finding DNA links between humans and the legendary Bigfoot.  “Genetically, the Sasquatch are a human hybrid with unambiguously modern human maternal ancestry,” reads a statement released by former veterinarian Melba T. Ketchum, the lead researcher of the study. “Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago.”

 The Emeralds have fielded questions from fans all week inquiring about the association between the Eugene Emeralds and the new Sasquatch logo.  “Now it is clear,” said Ems General Manager Allan Benavides,  “How is Eugene linked to Bigfoot?  Well, we are all linked by DNA.  You know, science.”

Fans have also been concerned that the introduction of the Sasquatch logo means the end of the loveable bright green bear mascot Sluggo. While Sasquatch is not taking over for Sluggo, the Emeralds are looking into the potential of having a live animal mascot at home games similar to the Universities of Colorado, Georgia and Texas.  The organization is seeking a group of nature enthusiast interns (unpaid of course) to search out a live Bigfoot.  Applications for this internship can be emailed to info@emeraldsbaseball.com or mailed to PO Box 10911, Eugene, OR 97440.

Initial plans are to use Bigfoot as the world’s largest batboy.  The team has petitioned the league to have umpires undergo wilderness training to mitigate the risk of on-field attacks.

I queried the Emeralds, via Twitter, regarding the response to this unpaid internship offer. They report that they have indeed been contacted by interested applicants, and have even been in touch with a local high school’s “Squatch Club.”

Stay tuned…

For a less-recent example of excessive hair on the baseball diamond, check out this 2011 West Michigan Whitecaps innovation: the Logan Hoch cam!

Finally, fans of Minor League Baseball, movies, and the intersection of the two might enjoy my recent article on the film Parental GuidanceIt stars Billy Crystal as Fresno Grizzlies announcer Artie Decker, and the opening scene was filmed at Chukchansi Park.

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Crystal chatting up the Grizzlies during a break in filming

The article I wrote was, naturally, quite baseball-centric. But I’d like to make it known that, above and beyond the MiLB connection, Parental Guidance is a quality family movie. Yes, it suffered at times as a result of trying to be all things to all people, but it had heart, was well-written and acted, and even included a Ralph Branca cameo. In looking at some of the negative reviews it got online, my response is “Lighten up!” Making a film that can really and truly appeal to the whole family is a delicate balancing act, and Parental Guidance succeeded far more than it failed.

All of this, on some level, is a metaphor for Minor League Baseball itself.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Something Fur Everyone

I have already thoroughly documented my own Winter Meetings experience, and played a role in documenting the experiences of quite a few others. But as our old friend Ron Popeil was so fond of saying: “But wait — there’s more!”

On both December 2 and December 3 the touring performance crew known as Fur Circus made goodwill appearances at the Nashville Ronald McDonald House and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (prior to setting up shop as Trade Show exhibitors). This was a win-win mix of altruism and self-promotion — Fur Circus, relative newcomers on the MiLB touring circuit, were able to spread some good cheer while also spreading the word about themselves.

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Fur Circus put out a press release prior to their visit, and later wrapped it up with this:

But, of course, all of that happened in the long-ago year of 2012. Here in 2013, we have new things to occupy our time —  like New Year’s-themed ticket packs! The Miracle have been doing this for a couple of years now, and I’m always surprised that it hasn’t inspired other teams to do something similar.

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Speaking of ticket packs, you may remember that the Durham Bulls are offering the creatively conceived and executed “Wil He or Won’t He” package. Per the squadron:

The Durham Bulls have unveiled a new ticket package in response to the blockbuster trade which sent Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers and other Kansas City Royals prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for former Bulls pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. The “Wil He, Won’t He?” Pack consists of three big Bulls games, including Opening Day on April 8th and July 4th, and an added incentive for fans should Myers skip Durham and make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. If he does not start the season with the Bulls, ticket package buyers will receive an additional game for free.

Well, now said package has been endorsed  by Mr. Myers himself!

Finally, in the all-important category of “Minor League team page staff bios,” both the State College Spikes and Lake County Captains have modeled theirs after retro baseball card designs. An example of each:

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Oh, and speaking of retro baseball cards — last year around this time I put together a series of “then and now” blog posts detailing those featured in the classic 1987 Topps set who are currently coaching in the Minor Leagues. Why don’t you give it another look? It was a lot of fun to put together and got a great response, but Lord knows it’s too much work for me to re-do each year. I’m only one man.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

(Yet Another) Job Seeker Journal: Clint Changes His Destination

Throughout this year’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair kept a journal chronicling their employment seeking experiences. (Meet them all HERE).

While it seemed that this serialized blogging saga had concluded, this turned out to emphatically NOT be the case. Clint Belau, the self-described “favorite” of the four job seekers, is no longer Birmingham-bound and in this post he explains why his 2013 plans now involve a certain PCL juggernaut.

Read Clint’s other entries HERE.

Clint Belau: You can't spell "Isotopes" without "ops"

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A Change of Plans

Remember me?  It’s your favorite (ok, that seems a bit vain, but let’s just proceed as if it were true) PBEO Job Fair attendee Clint Belau! After a Christmas vacation back to Wisconsin — where I witnessed over two feet of snow falling and ate enough food to last me through spring — I’m back with an update.

When I last checked in, I hadn’t heard back from either of the teams that interviewed me in Nashville. That surprised me, considering I felt both interviews had gone extremely well. However, it turned out that my Nashville trip was all gravy on the proverbial mashed potatoes as I had already received an offer from the Birmingham Barons the day before I left for the Winter Meetings.  Well, during my vacation, the gravy got whole lot thicker (I’m 93.8% sure that reference doesn’t make sense, but at the moment, I’ve managed to confuse myself, and don’t remember where I was going with the whole mashed potatoes thing).

Nearly two weeks after the Winter Meetings, I received an email from one team that had interviewed me and a phone call from the other…on the same day!  The purpose of both was to say that they really liked me, and wanted to offer me a position! So it turns out I’m not crazy, and those interviews in Nashville actually did go as well as I had thought!  Here I was, on what was going to be simply a celebratory trip home, mentally preparing for the drive to Alabama, and I now had two more job offers to ponder! After a couple drinks to settle the nerves and some weighing of pros/cons, I had a decision to make.

Was I suspicious that each of these teams had run through their list of first picks, been turned down, and were now perusing their list of backup candidates? Absolutely. If they liked me so much, how come I didn’t get a call back for two weeks? Surprisingly, I gathered up enough courage to pose that question when I spoke with both teams. In each case, the answer I received left me feeling quite sure that I was indeed atop both of their respective lists.

After considering my options (and a phone call to a world famous blogger who shall remain nameless), I have decided that the best fit for me would be in stadium operations with the Albuquerque Isotopes.

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The Isotopes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers. Being that I’m currently living in Phoenix, proximity, as well as level of baseball, comfortability with the team’s representatives, and a personal reason or two, all played a part in my decision. (And for those of you who are wondering, no, the fact that their team name is an homage to The Simpsons was not one of those personal reasons.)  So in a few weeks, it’s off to Albuquerque I go, to continue this journey toward a career in baseball.  Feel free to follow my escapades on Twitter (@clintbelau), where I’ll be rambling about the most attractive features Albuquerque has to offer, as well as offering my 140 character opinion on the latest Taco Bell commercial, which angers me by insinuating that somehow, bringing a 10 pack of crunchy tacos to a party (and consequently spilling lettuce and cheese all over your friend’s apartment) is somehow cooler than bringing a cheese and cracker platter.  

 OK, update complete.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.
Thanks, Clint, and best of luck in Albuquerque! That will most likely this year’s crop of Job Seeker Journals, but who really does know?
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Notes from Nashville

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks documenting the Winter Meetings perspectives and experiences of others, but today I thought I’d close out the 2012 blogging campaign by documenting my own time in Nashville. Or, more specifically, the time I spent wandering the labyrinthian corridors, archways and staircases of the absurdly large (and, I must point out, impeccably maintained) Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

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2012 marked a Winter Meetings return to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which last hosted the event in 2007 and will, yet again, in 2015. 2007 was my first Winter Meetings, and my memories of that experience are tinged with angst (as most of my memories are, but to a greater degree). At that point I was still finding my way with this job, and was not asked to go in any official capacity. But I went anyway, paying for my transportation and crashing in the hotel room of a benevolent co-worker. I had no idea what I was doing — Minor League Baseball was kind enough to give me a badge that provided entry to the daily events (such as the Trade Show and Gala), but I had no official media credentials, very few contacts, and virtually no money. I didn’t even have a camera. The blog posts from that trip, written less than two months after the blog itself was founded, reflect the ramshackle nature of that journey. (One post is simply a document of a conversation I had with a guy at a nearby Waffle House.) In looking back at the coverage of that trip, I am struck by how much I don’t like my writing and its snarky and dismissive yet trying-too-hard tone. (I am sure that, in five years, I will be disgusted by what I am writing right now. It is the way of things.)

All of this is to say that when I arrived back in Nashville for the 2012 Meetings, once of my first realizations was just how much my situation had changed in the last five years. Day to day it’s easy to feel like I’ve made no progress whatsoever, but here I was back at the Opryland and this time I was there in a far more legitimate capacity. Throughout the next three+ days I had many things to do, people to see, and stories to write. People would know who I am and I, in turn, would know them. I felt strangely at peace, and to the extent that I did anything on Sunday night it was this: some casual Opryland wandering, in order to re-acquaint myself with its gargantuan layout. (I also got some sushi, which was comically overpriced but competently prepared.)

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Monday, the first official day of the Winter Meetings, kicked off with the Bob Freitas Business Seminar. If you’re a fan of large crowds of people –  mostly men, mostly white — in bland business casual attire then this is the event for you! (Feel free to use that as a pull quote when advertising next year’s seminar). The morning portion of the seminar is comprised of a series of lectures, and I attended those within the “Licensing and Merchandising” track (just because). Here’s a riveting photo:

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Despite my snarky and dismissive tone thus far (I guess some things never change), I do find value in the Freitas Seminar and wrote about my experiences HERE in as freewheeling and irreverent (yet hopefully still informative) a style as I could muster at the time. Between lectures, attendees mill about in the hallways outside and as one would expect the scene is heavy on back-slapping and flesh-pressing — for many in the industry, the Winter Meetings is the only opportunity of the year to renew acquaintances with distant league peers and former co-workers. Much has been made of the myriad networking opportunities to be found at an event such as this, but it really is invaluable.

Come together

Come together

At 11 a.m. there was a break in the Bob Freitas Seminar action as attendees made their way over to the Brobdingnagian Presidential Ballroom for the “Opening Session.” Get ready for another riveting picture, because here it comes!

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The Opening Session has followed the same format in each year that I’ve attended — Randy Wehofer (of Iowa Cubs fame and fortune), serving as emcee, announces the full slate of league executive of the year awards and this then transitions to the main event: Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner’s speech. This always serves as a Minor League “state of the union” of sorts, during which O’Conner touches upon the past year’s triumphs and trials before looking toward the future.

This year I was VERY intrigued by what O’Conner had to say, as he introduced an ambitious new industry-wide initiative entitled “Project Brand.”

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I ended up writing a feature about Project Brand the following week, so please check that out if you’re desirous of more info. But, in a nutshell, this initiative is an attempt to market Minor League Baseball in a top-down, all-inclusive way. Essentially, it involves telling the story of Minor League Baseball in a manner that will be attractive to national sponsors and fans alike.

This resonated with me because, on a micro level, this is the story that I’ve been trying to tell through my work on MiLB.com and this blog. My content adheres to this emerging industry-wide vision and should complement it nicely. (To paraphrase a set of Coolio lyrics that have always been very important to me: There ain’t no interest like self-interest, because self interest don’t stop!)

After skipping the Awards Luncheon (for, among other reasons, my lack of anyone to sit with. I’m a lone wolf at these events, and somewhat envious of the the fact that many of the other people there roll deep with their team and league colleagues) I reconvened with all of the industry heads for the “roundtable” portion of the Freitas Seminar. There are 15 round tables and they all take place concurrently, with each presenter doing three half hour presentations.

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Meanwhile, most of the media hordes were camped out in their private ballroom. Oversaturation!

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But you can’t blame the media for showing up in droves. Who wouldn’t want to spend their time amidst such an idyllic environment? And I’ve got to give a quick tip of the hat to the Opryland here — the customer service within that place is impeccable. It’s easy to get lost, but employees (no matter what their specific job) always went out of there way to provide any assistance that they could. I imagine that Minor League Baseball employees, themselves in an industry so focused on customer service, were particularly cognizant of this as well.

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Of course, a big part of the Winter Meetings experience is the nighttime socializing. On Monday I fell prey to a problem that has been exacerbated by my new(ish) gluten-free reality — I can’t drink beer (and seemingly EVERYONE is drinking beer) so instead I went with whisky. But, of course, one beer does not equal one whisky and I lended up paying the price for my cavalier attitude in this regard.

But what can you do? Tuesday morning was a bit rough, but I had my first round of Job Seeker Journals to post. (Doing that sort of thing is a bit more work than people may assume. Adding titles, tags, links, photos and doing some basic editing takes time!) Next on the agenda was that a stop at the mecca of baseball-themed consumer goods and services that is the Trade Show.

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On display: one of the many new looks of the Reading Fightin’ Phils.

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And speaking of new uniforms, here’s a peak at what the Eugene Emeralds will be sporting.

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This sign, it was inaccurate!

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And — hey! It’s my old friends at Lynn University. Each year, students in professor Ted Curtis’ sports management program set up a booth at the Trade Show. In addition to spreading the word about the learning experiences on offer within their idyllic Sunshine State environs, they listen to impromptu lectures from various individuals within the baseball biz whom Curtis had asked to stop by.

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One such individual was me. Contrary to the picture, my audience was slightly larger than one.

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Toward the end of my spiel, I thanked Professor Curtis for continually asking me to take part in this. His invite back in 2007 was one of the reasons I first decided to attend the Winter Meetings. My thinking at the time was “If someone I’ve never met before wants me to speak, then I’ve got to go!” It served as a validation of sorts, a reminder that what I was doing was slowly starting to build an audience. (Put the emphasis on “slowly” in that previous sentence.)

But anyway — I ended up doing a story for MiLB.com on Trade Show first-timer Ben “The Utility Man” Youngerman, who’s gotten several mentions on this blog in the past. What can I say? I like his scrappy spirit and willingness to do whatever it takes to become a touring ballpark performer. This is not an easy industry to break into.

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All in all it was an enjoyable time at the Trade Show, even if I didn’t walk out of there $500 richer like Wisconsin Timber Rattlers graphic designer Ann Mollica.

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Mollica, who disavowed the legacy of fellow Wisconsinite Joe McCarthy by dividing this bounty equally amongst her co-workers, had won a raffle sponsored by the Skillville Group (home of the Zooperstars!, Myron Noodleman and Breakin’ B-Boy McCoy amongst others). Skillville are definitely the cool kids of the Trade Show — their advertising was featured on the back of the Winter Meetings badges, and their jumbo-sized booth manned by a squadron of employees in bright orange shirts had a prominent location close to the Trade Show entrance. They are very good at what they do, and well-known for it. The New York Yankees of Minor League Baseball touring performers?

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Mr. McCoy during a “break” in the action

On Tuesday evening I interviewed Winter Meetings logo designer Dan Simon (of Studio Simon) on the top floor of the Opryland, the two of us sitting just outside of a party held by the Chicago Cubs for their Minor League affiliates (every Major League club stages such an event during the Winter Meetings). That interview ran on the blog earlier this week, as did one I conducted the following morning with Sean Kane of Painted Glove Collectibles. Another interview that took place on Wednesday was with Ryan Kiel, a 25-year-old former Minor League pitcher now trying to break into the game on the business side. I later wrote an MiLB.com feature on Kiel, who, as it turns out, was hired as the general manager of the Appy League Pulaski Mariners (the same team for whom he began his pitching career, in 2010). This is a very interesting career arc!

Ryan Kiel: then and now

Ryan Kiel: then and now

Early in the afternoon I went back to the Trade Show to tie up a couple of loose ends — including a visit to the Australian Airbrushed Tattoos booth in order to get a temporary tattoo of a Minor League team (this is something that, two days before, I had promised I would do). The guys manning the booth had dozens of logos to choose from, and after some vacillating I went with the Timber Rattlers. I’ve always liked their logo, and figured I’d represent Wisconsin since I keep meaning to visit there in a professional context and thus far have been unable to do so. Also, I thought one their staff members might slip me a bit of the raffle winnings in exchange for the free promo I was giving them. (It was not to be, but please remember that I am always open to bribery.)

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So there you go — I got a temporary tattoo. It lasted for the better part of a week, and I grew to like it because it made me feel tough.

With things winding down, I strolled through the PBEO Job Fair area. These photos, like most that I took, aren’t very exciting. But perhaps they will help contextualize the series of Job Seeker Journals that have run on this blog.

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The final order of business for me was simply to attend the Gala, a three hour party (food and drinks included) attended by virtually every Minor League Baseball employee at the Winter Meetings. As such, it marks my last chance to network, and by “network” I mean slowly walk around the premises in a circle and see who talks to me.

I have no pictures from the Gala, which this year was held at a nearby Dave and Busters, but I do have an anecdote: I’ve been following a gluten-free diet since June, and the Gala marked the first time I had ever been in a situation with literally NO options. Every single item on offer was breaded and fried, and I felt like a real chump standing there with an empty plate and not knowing what to do. Eventually an MLBAM colleague of mine who is also gluten-free asked to talk to a manager about the situation, and the manager, well meaning but totally clueless, offered to go to a nearby Subway to get us dinner. That’s kinda like inviting someone with a seafood allergy to Red Lobster but we let it slide, and eventually they brought us soup and salad for the kitchen. Good enough! I was more interested in the open bar anyway.

Also good enough was my Winter Meetings experience in general. I flew back to NYC the following day, and soon managed to get a severe case of food poisoning courtesy of a local taco truck that I often frequent (I still love you, taco truck.) But before all of that happened, I got in a little QT with perhaps the most reliable individual in my life. She could stand to lose a few pounds, perhaps, but I suppose that’s true for most of us.

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If I didn’t see you this year in Nashville — well, here’s to Orlando in 2013!

To all who read this particularly self-indulgent entry: Happy Holidays, and thanks so much for sticking with me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Job Seeker Journal: Linda Le, 12/4/12

Throughout this year’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment seeking experiences. (Meet them all HERE). In this installment, Linda Le thinks outside of the box, makes connections, and plays the drinking game.

Linda’s first entry can be found HERE.

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Tuesday, 12/4/12: GOING BEYOND THE JOB FAIR

Upon arriving to the interview schedule room to check up on any of the postings I had applied to, the same organized chaos ensued, the same disappointed faces appeared and the pacing back and forth from room to room continued.

Most of the positions I had applied to at this point were still not posted for scheduled interviews with the exception of one. I was disappointed to not see my name listed, but I still proceeded to email the contact for the team to send my regards.

There was actually one posting that I didn’t apply to originally and instead of going through the process of submitting my resume I decided to email the contact listed on the posting, which happened to be the GM for the team. This paid off as I got a quick turnaround time of a response in regards to setting up an interview for the next day.

During the afternoon as well I made time to email a couple of contacts over at the Major League team in my hometown, specifically in regards to being involved in the charity foundation that is set up in the organization. Not only was I provided with more information on the volunteer program that was being formalized but I was also added to the list of participants for the upcoming season.

This adheres to the notion that you don’t necessarily need to go through the conventional ways of pursuing an opportunity – think outside of the box. Always make opportunities happen rather than waiting for them. I believe in having the mentality of always trying to hustle and selling yourself – if you can’t sell yourself, how do you expect to be apart of an organization that revolves around the business of selling?

Another aspect of the day was meeting several job seekers who decided that the idea of working in professional baseball was not so favorable to them anymore. One individual stated that the possible sacrifices that may be made, especially being a female in the industry, was too much of a toll for her to continue her pursuit in professional baseball. Looking back at the Business of Baseball Workshop, Pat O’Conner indicated that some people who were here for the job fair will find out that perhaps working in baseball is not ideal which is perfectly fine – better to know now than to invest so much time and effort in an industry you will not enjoy.

The end of the night was capped off like every other night so far here at the Winter Meetings: drinking and more drinking. Earlier I talked about the waiting game, but it’s the drinking game that seems more appropriate here at the Gaylord Opryland – my favorite is to drink every time I see a male attendee of the Winter Meetings. It’s within these settings that are perfect for making great connections within the industry and it’s also a way for industry people to see you in a social setting because to be apart of a baseball organization is to take on a new family and when someone can see you in that perspective, it’s always appreciated.

Clearly, this narrative has not reached its conclusion. Stay tuned for the sure-to-be engrossing next installment of Linda’s job-seeking adventures.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Job Seeker Journal: Eric Schmitz, 12/2 &12/3/12

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Throughout this year’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment seeking experiences. (Meet them all HERE.) In this installment Eric Schmitz recaps his first two days in the Music City.

It took a long journey to get to Nashville, but I can’t say there’s a city I’d rather have this year’s event in regards to my current situation. For me personally, being able to reconnect with my colleagues locally and throughout MiLB while trying to make my way into the industry makes things so much easier. I’m familiar with the area, and this being my third Winter Meetings, I know the ropes heading in. It’s almost like home-field advantage. While having an advantage is nice, the results are what matters.

The whole shindig got under way at Sunday’s Business of Baseball Workshop, which is probably the best reality check most job seekers are going to get prior to the PBEO Job Fair. This year’s was great — Rob Crain and the speakers did a fantastic job of being entertaining while getting the message across (which is basically the entire concept of Minor League Baseball). Being my third trip to the event but having a year away from the game, it was a good refresher to attend, albeit redundant to hear the same stories and speakers. Even though I know the situation well, the emcee Mr. Crain, Martie Cordaro, Elizabeth Martin, Giovanni Hernandez, the panel, “Parney” and Pat O’Conner were all great. I ran into Rob in the hallway between sessions and busted his chops about it being the third time I heard his Brian Cashman story, but honestly, he can keep telling it every year because it’s part of what this week is all about: meeting people and networking.

I made sure I attended the workshop because I knew I had to be able to get into the job posting room as it opened, since some teams will collect resumes Sunday night and post interview schedules first thing Monday morning. In past years, with less experience in my repertoire, I submitted a large number of resumes in the mindset of “throw enough crap at a wall and see what sticks,” and I’d end up with more interviews than I knew what to do with. This time around, I’ve been a bit more selective, because while I’m definitely motivated to do what it takes to get a career, not just a job, in the industry, I have a sense of what places and situations I can be successful in.

So after dropping in my resumes, I headed back to the hotel to change and grab food, then it was back to Opryland to do what is probably the most underappreciated yet crucial part of the job seeker role: hitting the hotel bars. I headed over with one of my former co-workers with the Sounds here in Nashville, Kevin Samborski, and another job seeker, Leon de Winter, to have a few drinks and start meeting people. Over a few beers, I made more connections than I would’ve even had a chance to do all day. It might seem a little misleading to some to act like drinking is what the Winter Meetings are all about, but really, the networking you do outside of the daily events is how you become part of the community. You’ll meet people this week that you’ll stay in contact with for the rest of your life, whether you work with the same team as them, or the same league as them, or the same organization as them, or not at all. And that connection is why this industry is the best.

After a late night (not too late, but late… I’d say “productive,” but irregardless…) I came back to Opryland Monday morning as the Job Fair and the Winter Meetings in general got into full swing. I checked the job posting room and battled the swarm around the two bulletin boards they decided to post everything at and tossed in a few resumes. Then I went and checked the interview posting room to look for my name but no dice.

I headed back into the posting room to see if the crowd died down, and as I’m looking at the board, my phone starts ringing. It was someone from one of the teams I submitted a resume for Sunday night, asking me to sit down for an interview, like… now. So I said “Sure,” and my first thought was, naturally, “What job did I apply for with these guys?” So as I’m walking to the lobby to meet these people I may be working with for the next few years or more of my life, I’m rifling through my notes to find the job title of what I applied for. I found them, sat down, had an interview which to me seemed to be a good one, and that was it. Such is life at the Job Fair. Always be ready.

The interview was early on in the morning, and the rest of the day crawled by. Nothing popped up before lunch time, and I met up with a bunch of guys from the Sounds and walked over to the Opry Mills mall to get some food. It was great catching up with them. One of the downfalls of breaking into the industry is that you’re likely going to be moving around, so you’ll spend summers being with people up to 18 hours a day (work plus after work drinks) and then you move on or they move on and you don’t get to see them as much. For veterans of the industry, that’s why the Winter Meetings is so much fun. This is the one time of year when you get to see the people you used to work with and have a good time.

Monday afternoon consisted of bunkering down in the Job Fair workroom and sitting and chatting with other job seekers while we all waited for more postings. Sitting down at a random table and shooting the breeze with people, waiting for my phone to charge, ended up being an alright way to pass the afternoon. I ended up having my name show up on a few more interview schedules, but everything was for Tuesday. So I headed back to the hotel, got out of my suit and shot right back over to Opryland for the night. The Baseball Trade Show opened Monday night, which is a can’t miss event. And, no, not just because of the free drinks. The trade show is a great place to make connections with the suppliers who you’ll eventually be working with once you’re an established professional. Meeting these people, seeing the products, which includes every item imaginable that a baseball team would need to operate, is eye-opening for many.

After that, I headed over to the sports bar here with a few people and ended up hanging out all night. Of course a bunch of guys from the Sounds were there as well (thanks to Assistant GM Doug Scopel for buying the first round) and as the night went on, I caught up with new faces and old. I was lucky to have a chance to get a drink with Clint, one of the other journaling job seekers and the very talented proprietor of this Ben’s Biz Blog as well. I called it a night relatively early thanks to having an early interview on the docket Tuesday. So we’ll see how that goes. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

There will be much more to come from Eric and our other three job seekers throughout the week. In the meantime, my own recap of Day One of the Winter Meetings can be found HERE. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Where There’s a Quill There’s a Way

So, a proper article on all of this appeared on MiLB.com yesterday evening, but in the interest of redundancy and poor time management let me reiterate: the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International League entity  formerly known as the Yankees (and, prior to that, the Red Barons) are now known as the RailRiders.

That image seen above is, of course, a porcupine straddling streetcar tracks. To explain why, let me quote liberally from an up-and-coming young writer by the name of Benjamin Hill:

The name-the-team contest was conducted online and fans were able to choose their top three candidates. While RailRiders received the most first-place votes, the name that appeared on the most ballots was Porcupines. That helps explain the team’s primary logo, designed by San Diego-based Brandiose, which features a porcupine straddling trolley tracks atop the word “RailRiders” in a stylized cardinal red and gold font.

The team announced the name at a gala open-to-public event that they dubbed “The Big Reveal.” And here’s how they revealed it:

As a staunch advocate for the increased deployment of Black Sabbath in public situations, I love that the team chose “Iron Man” as the soundtrack to their unveiling video. However, this comment on the RailRiders Facebook page showed that there was, in fact, a better option.

Why would you use ironman instead of crazy train for this promo?

Touche.

The RailRiders have since posted a plethora of “Big Reveal” photos on their Facebook page (which, as of this writing, still lists them as the Yankees). As you can see, the citizenry turned out in big numbers for the announcement:

Here’s SWB president Rob Crain (formerly of the Omaha Royals-turned-Storm Chasers) tossing t-shirts into the crowd after the announcement. When it comes to Minor League Baseball executives looking like hip-hop performers, this is about as close as you’re ever gonna get.

Of course, a lot of the online chatter regarding the new name has been negative. No opinion is illegitimate when it comes to personal taste, of course (unless it involves a continued affinity for so-called “Nu-metal”), but with team re-branding efforts it’s not so much a case of the name itself as it is how you use it. I’ve known Rob Crain since his days with Omaha, and he’s poised to bring an energetic and innovative operating style to a moribund and disconnected-seeming franchise that really needed an injection of personality. Combine that with the massive renovation to PNC Field taking place, and it seems apparent to me that the 2013 season will be one of the most successful in franchise history. More power to you, online commenters threatening to cancel their season ticket plans, but that to me is like breaking up with a beautiful and intelligent woman because you don’t like her new haircut.

As for RailRiders — if it’s good enough for Greg Legg it’s good enough for me! Legg, second from left in the below pic, is a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball legend who suited up for the Red Barons from 1989-94. I was a fan of his throughout, as during that time I regularly attended SWB Red Barons games while visiting my grandparents in nearby Gouldsboro.

If only Jeff Grotewold and Steve Scarsone could have been there to join him!

Legg and his crony on the far left there are sporting the team’s road cap, which references the team’s Red Barons past. It’s probably my personal favorite aspect of the re-brand.

Anyhow, to sum it up, there are a stew of competing forces at work whenever a team unveils a new look and regardless of your opinion, my opinion or anyone else’s opinion it will take several years before one can say whether RailRiders has been a success or failure. Instead of repeating myself more than I already have, I’ll close by referring you to a point-counterpoint I engaged in back in 2010 when the Omaha Royals became the “Storm Chasers.”

Rob Neyer (then with ESPN): the Storm Chasers have joined “the ranks of the embarrassing.”

Me: There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Rob Neyer never acknowledged this “debate,” and maybe he never even knew it was taking place (he was probably too busy counting his baseball writing-derived fortune in some Scrooge McDuck-like lair), but nonetheless the phrase “ranks of the embarrassing” has since become part of my everyday lexicon and for that I thank him.

And, jeez, I got so caught up in the RailRiders that I forgot to mention this: in celebration of their upcoming 20th anniversary season, the Hudson Valley Renegades have unveiled a new set of logos!

Pertinent details, per the team:

The new home uniforms will consist of a solid white jersey, with Dutchess blue piping and the new Renegades script logo across the chest. The uniform number will also be Dutchess blue, with a white outline both on the front and back of the jersey. The home uniform pants will be white with Dutchess blue piping down each pant leg. The home cap will feature the Renegades mask logo on a solid black cap. The mask logo will be embroidered on the cap adding a raised element to the overall appearance.

Careful, Hudson Valley: a glowering blue-tinted raccoon is watching your every move!

And, oh, hey: since I’m rambling on and on about logos and seem to have a NYPL fixation, here’s one more for you before I go. The 2013 New York-Penn League All-Star mark, courtesy of the Connecticut Tigers.

Okay, that anchor should keep me from drifting any further. I’m quitting while I’m still ahead, even if I don’t know what it is I feel that I might be still ahead of.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Stand in the Place Where You Work

Professional baseball bullpens have long been breeding grounds for eccentric behavior and bizarre rituals and, really, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Leave a group of bored young men to their own devices and spitting contests, impenetrable slang words and, yes, even lizard eating will result.

One particular bullpen competition that really seemed to take off this season was the in-game standing contest. The premise is simple: starting with the National Anthem, one (or more) players from each team’s bullpen attempts to stand at attention for the duration of the contest and beyond. This simultaneous exercise in endurance and absurdity was first brought to my attention via an excellent Myrtle Beach Pelicans blog post, and later in the season the Lowell Spinners produced a video that chronicled their standoff versus the State College Spikes.

Yet another standoff occurred on August 25, this time featuring the Lancaster JetHawks and visiting Lake Elsinore Storm. The following day I got an email from JetHawks director of sales and marketing Will Thornhill, who wrote in part:

[F]ollowing the National Anthem last night nobody in either the JetHawks or Storm Bullpen sat down.  After a couple innings we figured something was going on. Eventually only one player remained standing in each bullpen and it lasted throughout the ENTIRE game.  The Standoff continued 45 minutes after the game and both players were eventually carried out to center field where they negotiated a continuation….By the end of the game all of the fans sitting behind the JetHawks bullpen were standing as well, and when the game ended about 50 fans made their way to the bullpen and stood behind our pitcher.

The last JetHawk standing was Zack Grimmett, who for reasons lost to the annals of time conceded the stand-off during the first inning of the following day’s ballgame. Also lost to time was the name of his Lake Elsinore adversary [this info has since been regained from the annals of time. It was Mark Pope] — this all happened back in August and who among us can remember what happened back in August?

But to the extent that I can record this stand-off for posterity, I will. For while not necessarily of the best quality, some photos eventually emerged and I feel that it is my duty to share them with you. Italicized text is of the descriptive variety, and courtesy of JetHawks sales executive Jenn Adamczyk.

[I] first noticed stand-off while waiting for the [mascot] race to start. All but one or two in the JetHawks bullpen were standing. The Storm had one guy still up.

Later in the game — down to one JetHawks player and one Storm player

Post game; fans started crowding around the JetHawks player, cheering him on

Teammates carry both players from the bullpens to center field. At this point the clubbies from both teams brought the players dinner and were feeding them.

Other guys started playing [the card game] War on the field

End of the stand-off, called a truce. Both went home.

Truly, this was a classic moment in California League history. And since I’m still sitting here typing, I may as well take this opportunity to highlight my own moment in baseball stand-off history. Prior to the 2009 season, I traveled to Altoona and took past in the Curve’s “Last Fan Standing” competition. My mission was to keep one hand upon Diesel Dawg at all times.

I lasted 14 hours — good, but not nearly good enough. Story of my life.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Clogged-Up Competition in Bradenton

As with Monday’s better ladle than never post about the Orem Owlz, today’s missive is a blast from the recent past. This time around we travel to McKechnie Field –  home of the Florida State League’s Bradenton Marauders — which played host to the following event on July 27:

I’ll let the team explain their motivations for staging such a spectacle:

Many teams are doing promotions based on the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics; the Marauders have put their own spin on it by celebrating the “Plumber Olympics”….[L]ocal plumbing company “Plumbing Today” is sponsoring the night and providing a tee shirt giveaway to the fans in blue, green, or red.  Those colors represent which plumber those fans are rooting for…as we have a plumber representing each of those three colors.  Each of our plumbing competitors will [compete] in a series of on-field events, gaining points based on their finish in each of the competitions.  Upon our final contest we will line each of the plumbers up and don them with a gold, silver, or bronze toilet seat cover….Whichever color plumber takes home the gold will also win a special prize for all fans in attendance wearing that team’s color giveaway tee shirt.

Marauders coordinator of stadium operations Kris Koch first alerted me to this promotion, writing in an email that “it may be a little over the top toilet humor for you and your visitors’ taste.” While I appreciate Mr. Koch’s high regard for the Ben’s Biz Blog readership, I nonetheless believe that any visitors to this post will find it to be in excellent taste. (This is, after all, the blog that broke the “Subtle Butt” story.) So let us proceed unencumbered, with photos and commentary courtesy of Koch.

But first, a promotional video to whet the appetite.

Our three finalists (from left to right) Mario DePeau in Blue (France), Buzzy ‘Bare-hands’ Miller in Green (USA), and Paul McCloggin in Red (Ireland) pose for a picture with Marty the Marauder and the Plumber Olympic Torch

Fans were given t-shirts in the color of their favorite plumber when they entered through the gates

McCloggin and DePeau being introduced to the crowd pre-game

Plumbers took on challenges throughout the game, including the Toilet Paper shot put, Plunger Javelin and Toilet Seat Discus

In the end the USA was victorious as Buzzy was crowned with the Golden Toilet Seat Cover, DePeau received the silver, and McCloggin the Bronze

And there you have it, folks — a riveting account of one of the more “unique” events to occur in the Minor Leagues this season. Thanks to Koch for filling me in on the glorious details, and let this be a reminder to you: it is never too late to get in touch regarding notable 2012 promotions. Never!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Frankfurter Follies, Culinary Concoctions and Garbage Gremlins in Everett

Yesterday’s “ribbeting” narrative from Everett ended where such Biz Blog narratives often do: with the evening’s ballgame having just begun. I spent the first couple of innings with the AquaSox “Frog Squad” game day promo crew, overseen by director of community relations Katie Crawford and fronted on the field by the esteemed Mr. Schuyler Muller.

Encore presentation

Upon the conclusion of the top of the second inning, I was among those assigned to toss t-shirts to the crowd. My area of operation was directly behind home plate, which requires innovative wind-up techniques in order to insure that the shirt makes it over the net.

A far more memorable endeavor occurred one inning later, when I suited up as “Frank” in the nightly “Waddle Race.” This is the continuation of new ballpark tradition for me — dressing up as a food product that I can no longer eat due to my recent celiac disease diagnosis. 

I become that which I cannot consume!

Frank has been a staple of the Everett Memorial Stadium experience for years, but apparently his appearances have become increasingly rare. While waiting to appear on the field, I learned that Frank was, truly, a processed meat product in demand. I signed several autographs for enthusiastic fans, feeling the whole time as if I was failing them because my “signature” was terrible. It is very hard to use a Sharpie when it is gripped through ill-fitting slippery red gloves!

One woman, in particular, was a rabid Frank fan. As soon as she spotted him she ran over, offered a big hug, and then had me sign two balls, a hat and a stuffed Frank doll. Clearly, this was a moment she had been waiting for. (And, clearly, I am currently confused as to whether I am writing in the first or third person).

As for the “Waddle Race” — I’d definitely never seen the likes of this before. It was a relay race, featuring two teams of two, in which participants had to run while gripping a baseball between their legs. If the ball was dropped along the way, the contestant had to spin around twice before proceeding. Frank was assigned the second leg of the race, alongside a competitive Dad with a prominent calf tattoo.

When Frank received the ball from his teammate, he had a healthy lead over the opposition. The hand-off:

But keeping a baseball between such slippery uniform fabric was hard work, and Frank’s progress toward the finish line was slow.

———-

Okay — pause! Do you remember when I was at a Jackson Generals game earlier this season, and participated in a Fruit Race? My camera mysteriously stopped working during the race, with this damaged photograph followed by a series of “file not found” blank images.

At the time, I offered the following theory to why this had occurred:

My camera loves me…and was probably dismayed to see me demeaning myself at a Minor League ballpark yet again. Its malfunction was a protest of sorts, motivated by a desire to only document me at my best.

I am now convinced that this theory is true, as this damaged “Waddle Race” photo was followed by another series of “file not found” images. Unpause!

———-

So, what happened the rest of the way is that Tattooed Dad overcame Frank’s lead and coasted to victory. In my opinion, this was because Tattooed Dad was wearing shorts. It is much easier to sandwich a baseball between bare skin than it is to do so with polyester pants. Please trust me on this!

But, anyway, my camera malfunction continued throughout the following between-inning contest. Muller the MC, who was already in his golf clothes, donned a green jacket and narrated the “Three Stroke Golf Challenge” in suitably hushed tones. It went off really well, and the success of the “Three  Stroke Golf Challenge” was par for the course for the AquaSox. They have a creative slate of between-inning contests, and aren’t afraid to take risks. If you work for a team and feel that your operation might be getting a little stale in that department, then I’d suggest stealing some of their ideas.

Around the fifth inning or so I joined up with fourth-year employee Alex Baker, now a Frog Squad member and marketing intern, and the two of us went on a daring journey behind the outfield wall.

This mysterious area led to a mysterious alcove.

I was briefly tempted to plunge the entire ballpark into darkness…

But, instead, I just kept on walking until we reached our final destination: a lair!

And not just any lair, but the lair of the manual scoreboard operator. A grounds crew employee named Steven Cook resided therein, dropping numbered slats of wood into their appropriate holes.

The view:

Somewhere along the line, this list of rehabbing Seattle Mariner players morphed into a list of AquaSox scoreboard operators. What’s the difference, really?

I enjoyed my time in this lair, as I enjoy my time in all lairs. But there was more to see, and more to do. Back amongst the public, I snapped this shot of what the scoreboard looks like from the stands.

A brief stop back in the promo pit proved that all was copacetic; a typical scene consisting of dice-sitting employees in plastic hats with a cross-legged amphibian adjacent.

So Baker and I continued to our next destination — the “Frank’s Loaded Dogs” concession stand.

While I could not consume Frank in his full form, I did order a “Webbly’s AquaDog” sans bun.

Very tasty, yes, but in this anecdote I am a peripheral character. Upon meeting Baker earlier in the evening, he had earnestly inquired whether or not I had found a “designated eater” (i.e. one who is ready and willing to “take a gluten-filled bullet” on my behalf).

I replied that “No, I had not” and he quickly assured me that he would be up to the task. And, boy, was he ever. Baker chose the “Build Your Own” option, and after a bit of trial and error he concocted the following: Hebrew National frankfurter with mac and cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and bbq sauce (and probably more, there was only so much room in my notebook). I have multiple pictures of him posing with it, because he kept adding things to it.

But, throughout, the smile remained consistent.

The final product, which Baker dubbed the “Ultra-Dog.” It was, truly, a work of art.

We retreated to the picnic area down the first base line. Members of the Yakima bullpen were completely oblivious to the culinary history that was taking place just behind them.

I daintily approached my dinner.

While Baker’s approach was anything but dainty. I mean, he just devoured that thing.

Baker’s take on the “Ultra-Dog”: “Delicious! The flavors balanced each other perfectly — it was spicy, savory, and had a little tang from the onions. And then the hot dog brought it all together, serving as the backbone, if you will.”

Transcendence achieved.

At this point it was the seventh inning, and I was struck by a crazy idea — how about sitting down and watching the baseball game?

The fans engaged in an enthusiastic rendition of the seventh-inning stretch, which warmed my heart.

But, of course, I almost immediately forgot about my plan to just watch the game. In the eighth inning, it was time for “Garbage Gremlins.” I had never seen such a thing! Anyone who desired was invited to grab a (sponsored!) yellow trash bag, in order to collect garbage from the stands. All who did so received “AquaDollars” that could be redeemed at the ballpark, with the individual collecting the most trash receiving bonus AquaDollars (I forget just how many AquaDollars were at stake, so let’s just say “$850,000″).

Garbage Gremlins in action! Refuse to lose, there’s refuse to gain!

But this was no garbage time ballgame, and the hometown team emerged triumphant.

Frank approved the outcome.

You’d think that at this point it was time to call it a night, except no, it’s never time to call it a night when on these trips. Acting on a tip I had received earlier, I proceeded past out-of-uniform AquaSox autograph signers in search of a significant historical marker.

In the dark Everett night, it took me a while to find what I was looking for.

But, finally — success!

That square plaque on the bottom right commemorates the approximate landing spot of Ken Griffey Jr.’s first professional hit. I’ll let the plaque do the explaining (cigarette butt included to provide a sense of scale).

A unique bit of baseball history, and the icing on the cake to one of the most enjoyable and diverse “on the road” experiences that I have ever had. These days, I am constantly asked “You travel a lot. What are your favorite ballparks to visit?” Well, Everett Memorial Stadium is way up there, ranking with other 2012 favorites such as the Daytona Cubs and Arkansas Travelers. Great ballpark, great staff, great logo, great food — I’d highly recommend visiting should you ever get the chance to do so.

But, c’mon guys, you need to invest in at least one more letter “a.” An upside-down “u” doesn’t quite cut it…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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