Results tagged ‘ Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar ’

Meet the Job Seekers, Promo Seminar Edition

The annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar is a multi-faceted industry extravaganza, and one of its easiest-to-overlook components is the Job Fair. While a fraction of the size of its Winter Meetings counterpart, the Seminar Job Fair represents a great chance to, as its web site says, “get a head start on your competition.”

I would agree. While the number of job postings at the Seminar are fairly minimal, job seekers put themselves in a great position via the opportunity to learn from and network with the industry. A lot of Winter Meetings job seekers enter the experience with myopic viewpoints, not quite understanding the level of competition or how the industry actually functions on a day-to-day basis, but those who have attended the Seminar gain a far more realistic and nuanced view of what they need to do to succeed. And while it is certainly intimidating to be a relative unknown within the tight-knit collegiality of the industry, there are ample opportunities to make connections, start conversations, bond over drinks, etc.

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While attending the Seminar, I let it be known that I would be happy to highlight Job Seekers in an upcoming blog post so that my readers (which certainly include potential employers) could get a sense of who they are, what they’re looking for, and what motivated them to come to Louisville. Three Job Seekers responded to this open call; they are profiled below.

Kyle West

Kyle, a resident of Morgantown, WV is currently spending his days working in sales and his evenings calling Division II basketball games. He has three years of NCAA Division I communications experience, but, as you’ll see below, baseball is his passion. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?

For two seasons, I doubled as the play-by-play broadcaster for the University of Kansas baseball team in the spring and the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League in the summer, calling more than 120 games each year. During this time, I also served as a communications assistant in the Kansas Athletics Department and acted as the director of media relations for the Willmar Stingers, writing a game recap each night, producing game notes for each series and working in the ticket office during homestands. I currently have a full-time sales job with a private corporation, but I want to return to baseball and am hoping to find a minor league play-by-play job for next season.

What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?

I attended the Promo Seminar to network as much as possible, realizing that a lot of teams would not have a definitive grasp yet on their broadcaster situation for next year. I set some lofty expectations going into the Promo Seminar and somehow it exceeded them. I met a lot of great people and learned an incredible amount during the group therapy and power sessions. It was certainly worth the trip.

Interested in having Kyle work for your organization? Contact him at 785-472-7013, email west.kyle.w@gmail.com

Michael Vinson

Michael, 24, was born in “the rubber capital of the world” (aka Akron, OH) but has lived in Tennessee for almost his entire life. He attended the Memphis College of Art and, as a graphic design professional, would like to let it be known that his favorite fonts are Nevis and Franchise. 

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What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?

This past year was my first in baseball, interning as a graphic design assistant with the Tennessee Smokies. There I handled all of their graphics needs when it came to video board, print, social media, billboards, stadium signage, etc. You name it I made it. I was also the in-game audio operator for all of our their games, as well as co-director of the team’s game day productions when needed.

I am definitely looking to stay on the production and design side of things in baseball. As a designer, I enjoy being at the heart of the memory-making aspect of baseball, trying to add to the sport’s rich history with everything I make. Each design could be somebody’s first ticket, first poster, first everything, so I want to make sure they are all worth remembering.

What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?

I had such a blast being with the Smokies that a gathering of like-minded people sharing ideas on the sport sounded like the right place to further my experience and start to establish a network in minor league baseball. With only a year under my belt, I wanted to dive into the deep end of the pool and immerse myself in all of the knowledge I could obtain from the 3-day event. From all the ideas that I gathered to all the great people I was able to connect with, the seminar well exceeded my expectations.

The main highlight for me was every person I got to meet one-on-one and spend a few minutes with, learning so much from each one. My lowlight would have to be almost knocking over Pat O’Conner in passing at Louisville Slugger Field. Nice first impression, huh?

For more on Michael, and to get in touch with him, check out his website www.michaelvinson.net

Andrew Berger 

Andrew, a classic hip-hop aficionado, attended the University of Arizona and currently resides in Austin. The Irvington, NY native reports that “Baseball is my lifelong passions, and to make a career for myself in this great game is my absolute goal!”

What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?

For the past two seasons I have worked for the Round Rock Express.  This past season I worked in the “Control Room” working in the Gameday Presentation.  I am hoping to obtain a position working in Community and/ or Public Relations.  However, as we all know, working in MiLB requires an individual to remain flexible and open to all opportunities!

What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?

I decided to drive 17 hours from Austin to Louisville to get better and learn more about the business of baseball.  It was a phenomenal education with great minds and personalities coming together to share ideas, and the best part as a “Job Seeker” was that I had an opportunity to interact and introduce myself to members of MiLB across the board.  This Promo Seminar is a must-go for anybody who works in MiLB and anyone who wants to gain valuable and important insights from some of the top baseball minds!

And there you have it, just a small sample of the sort of folks who are vying for a career in baseball in 2014 and beyond. Get in touch if you’d like to share your own job seeking experiences (at the Promo Seminar or otherwise).

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Day Four of the Promo Seminar in Louisville

The above title is a bit of misnomer, as the Promo Seminar is only three days long  and was over by the time that everything in this post took place.

But! I was still in Louisville for the bulk of this particular day, and I did some things and saw some things and now I’m going to write all about it. I just don’t know what else to do.

Friday, September 27

After a semi-productive morning of writing, I checked out of Louisville’s Galt House Hotel amid a scene of controlled chaos. While the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar had been a fairly large event, it had nothing on the H20-XPO taking place that weekend and the lobby was absolutely packed with water industry merchants, policy makers, activists, and hangers-on. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that aquamarine mob scene, but wasn’t scheduled to leave Louisville for another couple of hours. So, I commenced to walking.

The Galt House Hotel is on 4th Street, and as part of a downtown revitalization effort a nearby stretch of this street has been closed to traffic and transformed into a retail/dining/nightlife complex called “Fourth Street Live!” It’s good for what it is (an accessible downtown gathering spot), but there’s no getting around the fact that its loud and tacky, with a disproportionate amount of square footage given over to national chains.

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Spending time on Fourth Street Live, while convenient for those situated downtown, leaves the visitor with little to no sense of what it is that might make Louisville unique. Therefore, I was glad to get a little time to walk around and take note of that which existed beyond the penned-in parameters of Fourth Street Live.

Before becoming the proud home of entities such as TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Cafe, and Howl at the Moon piano bar, Fourth Street was the site of Civil Rights sit-in protests.

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Click HERE to check out a photo gallery of the sit-ins and protests that took place in and around Louisville’s Fourth Street. Captivating stuff.

Just a few minutes later I came across this little monument to monk/poet/activist Thomas Merton, who became a monk at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani (his famous autobiography Seven Storey Mountain was written there, among many other works).

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Even better is the back of the plaque, which says that on this very corner Merton had the sudden realization that he “loved all these people.”

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Seeing this plaque got me to thinking about how we, as a society, don’t do enough to honor and promote the work of men and women of peace. While attending the Promo Seminar I heard a lot of great ideas about military-themed promotions and events, and I’m generally all for these types of endeavors as they represent a great chance to honor the sacrifices made by those in the community who have served overseas. But there is too much of a disparity at play, this willingness to almost indiscriminately label anyone remotely connected with the military as a “hero” while rarely if ever extending the same level of consideration to those who dedicate their lives to issues revolving around peace and social justice.

And, of course, even typing the above paragraph made me think about how I haven’t done nearly enough work on these fronts and am, at present, an ineffectual and self-centered urbanite whose college-era idealism has withered into a general “eh, I’m just trying to get by in NYC” sort of malaise. This is unacceptable, but also unacceptable is the continuation of this tangent, because, look, I had a baseball bat museum to visit.

And on the way to this baseball bat museum I saw another really interesting plaque!

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Thornton Blackburn’s Wikipedia page is short, but absolutely fascinating. Please enjoy this brief excerpt, as I am laboring under the delusion that everyone is interested in what I am interested in:

[The Blackburn's] had been settled in Detroit, Michigan, for two years when, in 1833, Kentucky slave hunters located, re-captured, and arrested the couple. The Blackburns were jailed but allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Lucie to exchange her clothes—and her incarceration—with a Mrs. George French. Lucie was then spirited across the Detroit River to safety in Amherstburg, in Essex CountyUpper Canada (U.C.).

Thornton’s escape was more difficult as he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, Detroit’s African American community rose up in protest. A crowd of some 400 men stormed the jail to free him.

Anyhow, I was indeed headed to a baseball bat museum or, to put it more specifically, the Louisville Slugger Museum. Along the way, one passes a variety of commemorative plaques which immortalize the Louisville Sluggers used by famous players. This was a Jeff Bagwell edition.

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Along the way to the museum, there were many sights to be seen.  Sights such as humorous Army-Navy Store signage.

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Not to mention a 30-foot tall gold replica of Michelangelo’s David.

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Finally, there was this photo op in front of the Louisville Science Center.

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Eventually, my destination was reached.

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There were no photos allowed during the factory tour, under penalty of death, but it was enjoyable to be walked through the bat making process.  Afterwards I wandered about the museum portion, pausing briefly to take this subpar photo.

071 After pondering this issue for a spell, I voted with the majority.

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Ted loved his Louisville Slugger.

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So did the Babe.

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After visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum my hope had been to swing by Zooperstars! headquarters, but time was a bit too tight so I simply walked around for a bit on East Market Street. Before skimming through the record selection at Please and Thank You coffee shop, I stopped by Muth’s Candies and scored some primo peanut brittle.

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Kentucky Fried Chicken is headquartered in Louisville, but I don’t think this graffiti was approved by corporate.

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And then there’s this:

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One final thing about KFC is that Louisville is home to the thus far only location of the more upscale (but still very casual) “KFC Eleven.

And with that random fact, I am officially out of Louisville-based content. I flew back to New York City that evening, thus ending what I truly believe was a successful jaunt to Kentucky. I just wish that said jaunt could have lasted a bit longer, because then I could have attended the Cropped Out Festival. Blues Control and Endless Boogie on the same night would have been awesome!

Meanwhile, I consider this blog to be its own sort of endless boogie. Post #988 is now in the bag.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Day Three of the Promotional Seminar in Louisville

Welcome to another installment of this Louisville tour diary, in which I detail the time that was had (by me) during last week’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. This post shall chronicle Day Three, but before proceeding please know that a recap of Day One can be found HERE and a recap of Day Two can be found HERE.

And with that bit of introductory housekeeping out of the way, we can now proceed with an unburdened spirit.

Thursday, September 26

Day Three started out strong, as Golden Bobbleheads were the first order of business. These annual awards honor the best promotions to take place in the Minor Leagues during the season, and are voted on by Seminar attendees (the finalists are chosen on a monthly basis by Minor League Baseball HQ in St. Pete). Before voting, each nominated team gives a brief presentation on their promotion, with teams not attending sending video submissions instead (these teams rarely, if ever, win). The end result is a fun and fast-paced couple of hours, as teams politic, provoke and plead from the podium.

Five Golden Bobbleheads are eventually awarded, in the categories of Best Non-Game Day Event, Best Theme Night, Best Charity Promotion or Event, and Best In-Game. I’ll weigh on the winners at a later date in the near future, but as for the presentations themselves this is the only photo that I possess:

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That’s Lake Elsinore Storm assistant general manager Raj Narayanan standing next to a gorilla, who soon took part in a light saber battle that almost ripped down the stage curtains. Such anarchy is par for the course when it comes to the Storm, who regularly engage in such nonsense at the Promo Seminar (for better or for worse I’ll never forget their 2009 presentation in which they touted their Subtle Butt flatulence neutralizer giveaway).

Meanwhile, my 10 nominations for 2013’s “Promo of the Year” MiLBY Award are just about to be unveiled. Check them out on MiLB.com and vote for your favorite! The MiLBY’s are the fan equivalent of the Golden Bobblehead, the hoi polloi-embracing yin to their industry insider yang. These two awards are not in competition with one another, but I’ve got to say it’s been a bit disheartening to find that teams generally care a lot more about winning a Golden Bobblehead. Again and again teams brag to me about winning a Golden Bobblehead (often thinking that I have something to do with their selection), but rarely do I hear such excitement when it comes to the MiLBYs.

This is disheartening, yes, but somehow I carry on.

There was a full slate of presentations after the Golden Bobblehead portion of the morning (one of which included a hilarious verbal slip-up), but for the most part I wasn’t paying much attention. In fact, for much of it I wasn’t even in the room. This is because I was to be the Seminar’s final ballroom presenter, so I spent some time in the hotel room putting the finishing touches on this:

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I suppose the title is self-explanatory, as this 20-minute speech simply detailed my 2013 travels in chronological order. I tried to keep it breezy and funny yet informative, and I think I succeeded. Going into it I was incredibly nervous and edgy and couldn’t really sit still, but as soon as I got on the stage I was completely relaxed and started making jokes like they were going out of style (and my kind of jokes really are going out of style).

(Also: I am available to give this speech, or variations thereof, in other venues. All that I ask is for travel and lodging expenses to be covered and a small “whisky stipend” provided.)

Unfortunately this smartphone photo seems to be the only documentation of my speech that exists. Please know that it was delivered into a sea of smiling faces, each more impressed than the last at my boundless charm, buoyant humor, and verbal dexterity. If anyone else has any more photos then please send them to me! The flames of narcissism need to be fanned, as I am a lonely man and the offseason is long and cold.

photoI celebrated my victorious speech like I celebrate everything else: by eating a meal in public while standing, completely alone. In the afternoon there were a couple more “Group Therapy” sessions, and one of the ones I attended was titled “Beyond the Press Release” (moderated by Minor League Baseball corporate communications manager Mary Marandi). I spoke a little bit during the session about the unpredictable crapshoot that is national media attention, but here are two things in my notes that I didn’t get around to mentioning.

– For the love of God, it is the year 2013 and therefore ALL press releases should be sent using BCC (believe it or not, there are still some teams who display their entire mailing lists in the “to” column of every single press release they send).

– Maintain Facebook and Twitter feeds separately. There are still several teams whose Facebook posts automatically appear on Twitter in truncated form (usually ending in the middle of a sentence, followed by an ellipse), which gives Twitter followers the impression that they are a total afterthought. Twitter is far too important a means of communication to be used in such a slapdash manner.

Any thoughts on any of this? Let me know.

Up until this juncture I have been extremely heavy on the written word, leading eyes to glaze over, minds to numb and joints to atrophy. As a remedy to these myriad afflictions I shall close the post with a barrage of photos from Thursday evening’s ballpark outing to Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Bats (this is easily the best stadium naming rights deal in Minor League Baseball, as regards the company’s connection to both city and sport). After shuffling off of the hotel shuttle almost everyone headed toward the concourse booze merchants, but not I. My allegiance is not to the booze (well, at least some of the time), my allegiance is to you. Therefore, I did a full lap around the stadium before entering.

030Architecturally speaking and otherwise, Louisville Slugger Stadium is an absolute gem. It fits beautifully into its downtown surroundings, incorporating a defunct train depot into the design and featuring gorgeous views of the Ohio River and the bridges spanning it.

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The statue out front commemorates Louisville native Pee Wee Reese in high-flying form.

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This pathway (located down the third base side of the facility) leads to an outfield entrance.

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032There is a statue on this side as well, honoring Hall of Fame running back (and Louisville native, natch) Paul Hornung.

033The long and winding road continued from there, ultimately bringing me back to where I started and then into the stadium itself.

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037Like moths to a flame, industry was gathered ’round the booze (yes, I have a tough time maintaining a gluten-free diet in a ballpark environment, but I think it would be even tougher to work in baseball as a recovering alcoholic).

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Tours were being offered at this stage, so I joined on with a group whose departure was imminent. The view from the suites:

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This picture, hanging in a corridor located outside of the press box, gives a sense of what an absolute behemoth Cardinal Stadium was (the team played here from 1982-99, largely as a member of the now-defunct American Association).

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Old American Association championship banners decorate this spacious entranceway area, which used to be the aforementioned train depot.

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We then ambled down to the Bats’ clubhouse, home of the forsaken Aerobie.

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This was one of the few clubhouses that I’ve seen that feature a pool table.

050Beyond that, I simply enjoyed documenting some of the more absurd pieces of 2013 season detritus. I wonder what the fine is for allowing the fine box to be photographed by a middling Minor League blogger?

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Not the best place for a fitted hat sticker, guys.

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No offense, USA Baseball.

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And while Muhammad Ali is one of Louisville’s most famous native sons, let it be known that one of his most celebrated adversaries also logged time here.

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Back upstairs, there was a whole lotta eatin’ going on. Although I failed to document it, the centerpiece of my dinner was a “Kentucky filet mignon” aka fried bologna.

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Dinner was followed by the presentation of the Golden Bobbleheads, but, as mentioned previously, I’ll save my thoughts on them for another time. After the awards “ceremony,” whilst in the midst of the usual industry event hobnobbing, I was approached by members of the Bats’ staff. Would I be interested in dressing as a racing food product? How could I say no?

Back down into the abyss we descended:

055I eschewed the Taco Bell sauce packets in favor of this guy.

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056No documentation exists of our concourse forays, but it was an interesting experience. Usually when I’m in costumes such as the above, the response is one of constant attention. “Hey, can I get a picture?” “High five!” “I know you can hear me!” etc. But when dressing up as a racing food product amid an all-industry crowd, THE INDUSTRY DOES NOT CARE. I was met with contemptuous glares by some, but most were completely indifferent and couldn’t even be bothered to high five. Okay, cool, that’s fine, save your energy for the piano bar. I understand that at this point in the calendar year a certain ennui has set in. It sure has for me!

But yet, I keep writing. There will be more from Louisville, because there is always more until there is nevermore. But, for now, I’m gonna quit Raven.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Day Two of the Promotional Seminar in Louisville

Wednesday, September 25

The previous post in this ongoing saga detailed Day One of the 2013 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, held in Louisville’s Galt House Hotel. And when there’s a Day One it’s a near certainty that Day Two will follow. In my case that’s just what happened, and therefore Day Two is what this post shall detail.

But no matter what day it is, you be sure that there’s a lot going on at the Seminar.

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The morning portion of the Seminar was devoted to “Around the Horn,” in which the microphone is passed around the room so that attendees may detail their most successful endeavor of the 2013 season. I wrote all about this on MiLB.com, which, believe it or not, is the official web site of Minor League Baseball. But I took note of far more than that which was included in the article, some of which I will now share:

– South Atlantic League president Eric Krupa plugged his website Club Philanthropy, which details charitable efforts taking place across the world of Minor League Baseball. (Lots of great ideas are contained therein, although it hasn’t been updated since April.)

– The Gastonia Grizzlies, a collegiate wood bat team, staged a “Dig to China Night” promotion in which plane tickets to China were buried in the infield dirt. Whomever located the tickets in a post-game dig would win them, but here’s the catch — the tickets were one-way only, and nothing else was included as part of the package.

– Myrtle Beach Pelicans GM Andy Milovich said that “Salute to Smells” was his team’s best promotion of the year. I wrote about it HERE.

– Phil Wrye, assistant GM of the Bowie Baysox, extolled the virtues of his team’s “Glow in the Park Night.” 2500 fans received glow sticks, greatly enhancing the ballpark atmosphere (especially prior to that evening’s fireworks display).

– The Tri-City ValleyCats attempted to set the Guinness World Record in the category of “Most People Wearing False Mustaches.” This endeavor was inspired by manager Ed Romero, who has a real mustache. (In other news, I am not a fan of the Guinness World Records governing body. My thoughts on that, and much more, can be heard in the latest GameOps podcast. I was speaking live and direct from Louisville’s Galt House Hotel.)

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– Emcee Todd “Parney” Parnell remarked at one point that during the early stages of the offseason it would behoove teams to look into the upcoming summer movie release schedule. Based on this info, you can plan timely theme nights well in advance. Another solid Parney tidbit was this: “I tell everyone on our staff to read the [local] paper every day. Some of our most impactful promotions have been done at a moment’s notice.”

– The Lowell Spinners talked about their military trading card set giveaway, which honors local servicemen and women both past and present. This is an idea that other teams will almost certainly steal for their own promotional schedules, and later in the week I snagged my own pack of these cards. Check ‘em out (and excuse the glare):

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But, of course, not everyone attending the Promo Seminar works for a Minor League Baseball team. This “Around the Horn” session also gives Job Seekers a chance to introduce themselves and Trade Show exhibitors a chance to promote their product. And when the mic was passed to me, I took the opportunity to lobby for increased gluten-free options at Minor League ballparks in 2014 and beyond. There’s no interest like self-interest ‘cuz self-interest don’t stop!

Wednesday afternoon was largely taken up by “Power Sessions,” in which industry leaders take part in a moderated panel discussion. First up was an intermittently illuminating “What’s Next” roundtable about the future of the industry, which included Minor League exec-turned Astros president Reid Ryan on the panel. I found Reid’s perspective to be an interesting one, in that he is attempting to incorporate some Minor League-style entertainment into the Astros’ big league show. For example — this season, the Astros asked fans to tweet suggestions for the walk-up songs of visiting players.

Michael Hand, the chief marketing officer of Project Brand, spoke on Wednesday afternoon as well. This was the first chance for many in the industry to meet Mr. Hand, who is tasked with obtaining national sponsorship deals for Minor League Baseball as the industry attempts to establish itself as a uniformly formidable sporting entity (which it is!) Hand has an aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach to his job and I got the sense that his intensity and enthusiasm impressed many in the audience.

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The Seminar portion of the day complete, attendees adjourned to the Trade Show cocktail party and silent auction. I made a brief appearance at this shindig, but, like the day before, soon left the hotel in order to spend the evening with an actual Louisville resident. Wednesday’s tour guide was Dan Simon of Studio Simon fame (he designed this year’s Promo Seminar logo, in fact), and during a drive around the city we saw many sights and some of them I actually managed to take pictures of.

Such as this — Jim Patterson Stadium, home of the University of Louisville baseball team.

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This was a very impressive looking facility, as were all of the University of Louisville facilities I saw during my time in the city. It kinda left me with the impression that academics is not exactly the top priority at this institution, but who knows? Maybe they’re excelling on all fronts?

One pocket of the city that’s definitely excelling on all fronts is St. James Court, located in “Old Louisville.” The houses on this tree-lined street were a sight to behold, bestowed as they were with turn-of-the-20th century Victorian architectural splendor, and I immediately began to fantasize about living in one of them.

I’m not sure what adjective anyone else would use, but I’m going to go ahead and call this fountain “iconic.”

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The Conrad-Caldwell house is on the corner, fully restored and open for tours. The internet informs me (and by extension, us) that this house is a “stunning example of Richardsonian-Romanesque architecture” and though I don’t know what that means I am nonetheless impressed.

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There was more to my evening in Louisville, but since it wasn’t documented photographically it may as well have not happened. If there was only a way in which one could paint a picture with their words!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Recapping A Confabulous Weekend in Myrtle Beach

As mentioned in the previous post on the blog, I spent this past weekend at the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach.

The above photo encapsulates why it can be difficult to cover these sort of events: pictures of hotel conference rooms trade show mingling just aren’t very exciting. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to socialize with those in the industry, and to get a gauge on promotional techniques and concepts that may be popular in 2012 and beyond.

I wrote about the seminar in two MiLB stories, which can be found HERE and HERE. Unbiased third parties report that interesting information abounds in these fact-laden Myrtle Beach missives.

One of the topics touched upon is the Lake Elsinore Storm’s Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of the 2011 “Golden Bobblehead” for “best in-game promotion.” The Gorilla made a cameo appearance at the seminar, attacking attendees with pool noodles and overturning the speaker’s table. My best attempt to document this chaotic moment:

Certainly, the Grounds Crew Gorilla was one of the highlights of my May visit to a  Lake Elsinore Storm game.

Meanwhile, at the Trade Show, Trampolines USA was selling their “Pony Hops.” These things swept through the Minor League landscape last season, and I imagine that there will be even more teams using them in 2012.

The roster of the mighty Skillville Group was on display as well, bathed in beatific blue light.

But I think this mascot was my favorite part of the trade show, a costumed creature available to the highest bidder during Saturday night’s silent auction.

At the time I took this picture, the Danville Braves were the highest (and only) bidder. I’ll have to check to see if they won, because I’d love to see this dazed and confused character at an Appalachian League baseball game.

On Sunday night, there was an industry outing to Ripken Baseball’s Myrtle Beach Baseball complex. My lens was dirty in the following photo, but I like the effect.

This marks the second time this month I was at a Ripken Baseball youth complex, with my first outing taking place in conjunction with an Aberdeen IronBirds game.

According to my hastily-scribbled notes (the only kind of notes I’ve ever made), the Myrtle Beach complex is a 10-month a year operation and devoted almost exclusively to youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. There are three regulation-sized diamonds and five youth size, all on synthetic turf.

Here’s Griffith Field, where an estimated 2500 games have been played over the past six years.

All synthetic everything, even the “dirt.”

A few more shots of the surroundings, some of them taken from the back of a moving golf cart.

From there the festivities moved on to Myrtle Beach’s BB&T Coastal Ballpark, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I had visited there in late July, but was happy to be back.

Upon entering, we were greeted with some very welcome sights.

1. Popcorn and boiled peanuts!

My two best friends

2. Beer, as poured through the Bottoms Up beer dispenser (yes, they fill from the bottom. Magnets are key). Needless to say this was good marketing, using this product in full view of curious (and endlessly thirsty) industry decision-makers.

You may recall that when I was in Myrtle Beach I interviewed noted groundskeeper Chris “Butter” Ball, during which he observed that he keeps “extreme banker’s hours” in the offseason.

Well, this offseason might be a little different:

Coming in 2012: New Playing Surface!

A buffet-style meal was set up in the right field picnic area, while down the left field line attendees could play corn hole and test their arms at the speed pitch.

As is too often the case, the demands of attending and covering an event such as the seminar leaves little time for exploring the area. But I’d like to close with this shot, as it features a business that has found a way to carry on amidst Myrtle Beach’s proliferation of neon-hued dining palaces and soul-destroying theme bars.

Harry’s Breakfast Pancakes — RIP Harry!

Next time I got to Myrtle Beach, this will be first on my list of places to check out.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Don’t Know Where We’re Going, But Blog Knows Where We’ve Been

I usually wouldn’t put up a new post on a Friday, but this is no ordinary Friday.

For starters, I am writing to you live and direct from Myrtle Beach, SC, home of the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. Here’s the view from the hotel room, just so you know where I’m coming from:

I took this photo about 10 minutes ago, as a means to express how limited one’s view of a city can be if you only experience it from a hotel room. But this pessimistic take on the situation was immediately superseded, as I noticed that there was an honest-to-God rainbow amidst the dreary late September afternoon (it’s there, I swear).

So now all that I want to express is that there’s beauty everywhere, even (and especially) if you’re not looking for it.

In a nutshell, the Promotional Seminar is an annual industry gathering dedicated to — drumroll, please — promotions. One of the great things about this business is that affiliated teams do not compete directly against one another; they all have their own designated geographical area in which to operate. Therefore, everyone is more than willing to share their best ideas and practices — what’s good for one is good for all! The seminar is a good occasion for everyone to congregate, collaborate, and start laying the groundwork for the season to follow.

Trust me, it is NEVER too early to start thinking about next season.

But, right now, my mind is on the season that just transpired. Just a few short hours ago, the annual “MiLBY Award” ballots went live on MiLB.com.

There are a plethora of categories, but of course what I would like to highlight is my annual promotion round-up.  I have divided the year’s promotional endeavors into four categories — giveaways, theme nights, celebrity appearances and the unfortunately-named but eminently worthwhile “miscellaneous” — and chosen 10 nominees for each category. The voting runs all the way through October 13 (vote early and vote often), at which point the four winners will vie for “Promotion of the Year.”

I hope this all makes sense, feel free to email me if you need clarification or have comments, complaints, commendations or concerns.

MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year” has a long and illustrious history, one that dates all the way back to those halcyon days of 2007. The winner’s circle is as follows:

2010: Birmingham Barons — “Rickwood Classic.”

An annual contest played at America's oldest professional ballpark

2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods — “What Could’ve Been Night.”

What if the Hot Rods had instead been known as the "Bowling Green Cave Shrimp"?

2008: Fresno Grizzlies — “Mascot Showdown”

An evening-long battle between Parker and visiting superstar the Phillie Phanatic

2007: Fort Myers Miracle — “Billy Donovan Night”

What I like most about the above four promotions is that they have absolutely nothing in common with one another, thereby demonstrating Minor League Baseball’s ability to do just about anything and to do it well. What’s next?

 benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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