If you thought that the previous post would be the extent of my Winter Meetings coverage, then I commend you for thinking about my writing.
But the fact of the matter is this: While solidly on the former end of the Empty/Full continuum, my Winter Meetings content tank is not yet barren. This post, therefore, marks my best effort to attain depletion (a spiritual imperative, in some cultures).
It was mentioned in my MiLB.com article, but one of Tuesday’s most intriguing events was the annual “Women in Baseball” speed networking event. Open only to female employees of affiliated MiLB teams (as well as the odd blogger), the event was emceed by Ripken Baseball executive director Amy Venuto and featured three topics over which to “speed network”: putting your ideas into action, how to manage emotions, and transitioning from co-worker to supervisor.
And, let it be known, this is that rare seminar in which alcoholic beverages are served.
Anyhow, I think I’d like to do a longer story on women working in baseball. Not some sort of “Minor Leagues, Major Groundbreakers” puff piece; I’d just talk to people around the sport in order to get some perspective on what it’s like. Let me know if you’ve got something to say.
[Minor Leagues, Major Complaint: can there please be a moratorium on the “Minor This, Major That” story headline? It’s been done to death.]
The “Women in Baseball Seminar” also included a brief speech by Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner, part of a whirlwind Winter Meetings for the always-on-the-go industry leader. Perhaps the most significant thing on O’Conner’s agenda occurred on Wednesday afternoon, when he was unanimously re-elected (by league presidents) to a second four-year term.
I missed the election (held in a ballroom of the Hilton Anatole hotel), but was told that it was short and sweet. Here are a couple of photos taken by jack-of-all-trades MiLB.com colleague Danny Wild:
I also wrote about the annual anxiety attack that is the PBEO Job Fair, in which hundreds of ambitious young job-seekers seek to break into the wonderful world of Minor League Baseball. Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs!
But anxiety inducing or not, and whether or not one obtains a position, the Job Fair represents a great networking opportunity. The Winter Meetings are absolutely unparalleled when it comes to the number of baseball people in one place at one time (save for Baseball Heaven, of course).
And, finally, there was Dipquest 2011, in which I and two other intrepid travelers went on a pilgrimage to find what was allegedly the best dip in Dallas.
It all started the week before the Meetings, when loyal reader (and world-renowned DJ) Rex Doane wrote in that I should visit “Matt’s Rancho Martinez for the legendary Bob Armstrong dip. It’s a proud, artery-clogging D-Town tradition.”
When I mentioned Rex’s recommendation on Twitter, Trade Show vendor Chad Walters (founder of Lean Blitz) wrote back that he’d be up for the Dipquest (and he had a car!). Another Twitter recruit was job-seeker Steven Gold (@StevenPGold), who signed on within a half hour of our Tuesday evening departure.
Matt’s Rancho Martinez, from the outside:
Within hung a well-rendered (and somewhat inscrutable, to these Northeastern eyes) mural:
The Dip! (cheese, guacamole, sour cream, ground beef, and seasoning):
A Dip takes a Dip in the Dip!
That was followed by a “Monster” chicken-fried steak, done “Cowboy Style” (smothered with chili, served with side of rice and beans).
Was this Tex-Mex heaven?
Or was it Tex-Mex hell?
After three days of diligent Winter Meetings coverage, I was ready for a party. A Gala, even.
And wouldn’t you know it? That’s just what I got. On Wednesday evening a vast legion of buses cued up outside the Jade Entrance of the Hilton Anatole hotel in order to transport all manner of Minor League personnel to the annual Winter Meetings Gala.
We arrived at the Gala under the cover of darkness, and it took me a while to figure out where we were. After entering through a narrow side entrance, I aimlessly wandered through this mysterious facility’s labyrinthian corridors until coming across a particularly well-lit area.
Overcoming considerable feelings of trepidation, I cautiously navigated the above pathway until it opened up into the following tableau.
Oh, so it was a baseball stadium we were at, was it? I guess I could have seen that one coming. But what stadium? The brobdingnagian dimensions seemed to indicate a Major League facility, but since I’d fallen asleep on the bus I had no idea how long we’d traveled to get here. The lack of a roof, retractable or otherwise, ruled out the likes of Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Toronto, and Milwaukee, but all else was fair game.
Eager to get to the bottom of this conundrum, I went in search of context clues.
This outfield sign didn’t help matters. I’ve been to ballparks throughout this great land, and one of the few constants are billboards in which a desperate species targeted for mass slaughter tries to appease their carnivorous overlords by advocating for the mass slaughter of a different species.
But wait! This avian murder-promoting bovine is wearing a Texas Rangers cap! Could it be that I was at none other than Rangers ballpark? A search for more clues seemed to validate this assumption.
The solitary lasso-wielding young men on the concourse were certainly Lone Stars.
But what finally convinced me that I was in Arlington was coming across this cup, which commemorates the unforgettable ALCS match-up between the Rangers and their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox.
The next question to flicker through my mind was just as pressing: Where is everyone? Save for solitary lasso-ers, the place was deserted. If a mechanical bull is in the stadium, but no one is there to ride it, then does it make a buck?
After much hypothermia-inducing wandering, I came across a cluster of industry executives staring toward the ground with intent focus.
There’s one thing, and one thing only, that could command that sort of rapt attention: Armadillo Racing!
Unfortunately that’s the best picture of the armadillos that I could muster, as my camera is morally adverse to any photographic attempt involving movement. But, yes, to reiterate: the 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings Gala featured Armadillo Racing as entertainment.
But in life, as in the dictionary, alcohol comes before armadillos. There were even more folks gathered at the upstairs Jose Cuervo Club.
With the location of my whereabouts finally ascertained and my heart therefore unencumbered, I went on a wandering spree.
But soon enough it came time to re-board the buses and head back to the Hilton Anatole. The following signs were up in the lobby, signifying an end to yet another industry confab.
In yesterday’s post I focused on the Winter Meetings Trade Show, and in today’s article on MiLB.com I spent some time discussing the Job Fair (among other things).
So, in keeping with a style that has come to characterize the fragmented nature of 21st-century discourse, now it’s time for a mash-up! What follows is a post on people who were looking for jobs at the Trade Show.
First and foremost, yesterday I landed an exclusive interview with YouTube sensation Domingo Ayala. He is the self-proclaimed “#1 Free Agent” of the Winter Meetings.
“Multi-year deal is big for me, so maybe 20-25 years and a couple hundred million,” said Ayala. “There’s about 30 teams discussing with me right now.”
Ayala’s stint with the Eugene Emeralds was voted this year’s “Best Celebrity Appearance” on MiLB.com, and Ayala said he’d be amenable to another stop in the Minors to “maybe teach the young guys how to play.”
Baseball superstars of a different sort could be found manning Booth 1101. The vaunted Skillville Group could be found there, whose roster of touring performers includes the Zooperstars, Birdzerk, Myron Noodleman and Breakin’ B-Boy McCoy.
The tough economy has resulted in less sponsorship dollars for Minor League teams, which has led to a decrease in touring performers on the schedule. But Skillville impresario (and lead Zooperstar) Dominic Latkovski nonetheless expressed confidence.
“The fans want something above what they’re used to seeing, a national act they don’t see every game and we offer that” he said. “We have a good reputation and always deliver, and feel like we’re the best bet out there.”
Meanwhile, at booth 1404, a new touring act was trying its best to make its presence known: The Fur Circus. Here are three of the primary performers, with an idiotic blogger thrown in for good measure.
I liked the concept behind Fur Circus, and am looking forward to seeing their show. It was described to me as a “circus gone wrong” as well as a “cross between the Three Stooges and Shrek,” in which a hapless ringmaster increasingly loses control of his subjects throughout course of five in-game acts.
The Fur Circus crew is aware of how difficult it can be to break into the game, and part of their pitch is the extent to which they’ll go above and beyond standard touring act obligations via pre-game media appearances and commitment to fan engagement.
“Pre-game, we’ll let everyone know that the circus is in town,” said Jeremy Legg, one of six performers in the Fur Circus posse. “And post-game, we’ll be there posing for pictures until the last fan leaves.”
An even scrappier post-game touring entity was “The Utility Man” aka Ben Youngerman. This former Trenton Thunder employee didn’t have a booth to his name, instead opting to traverse the corridors in search of a receptive audience.
While with the Thunder, Youngerman developed “about a dozen go-to characters,” including the “wacky food vendor” as well as R & B sensation “Benyonce“. He also stresses that he can develop new characters as needed for theme nights and other special events, and specializes in both on-field skits as well as one-on-one fan interaction. Hence, the “Utility Man” moniker.
Youngerman’s operation is a lean one, and as such he says “his price is cheaper” than other touring acts. Whether this results in a plethora of ballpark bookings remains to be seen, but so far his approach has been a good one.
“You’ve just got to throw yourself into the fire,” he said.
That’s a good way to sum up the attitudes of so many here in Dallas, be they job seekers, Trade Show vendors or members of the media. Therefore, I declare this to be the official song of the 2011 Winter Meetings. All hail a true rock legend.
What am I doing with my life?
The answer to this query, at least for today, is this: Writing about the Baseball Winter Meetings, live and direct from the Big D.
Or, as people who aren’t insufferable call it: Dallas.
The location, specifically, is the Hilton Anatole seen above. For reasons I have not yet ascertained, a statue of American orating legend Will Rogers graces the outside of this quite magnificent facility.
But this is a location best seen from the indoors, especially since the climate in Dallas hasn’t exactly been hospitable (40 degrees and raining).
A triumvirate of sideways-glancing goddesses project a welcoming aura, whilst elephantine sentries stand guard for the media elite.
My day started at the Bob Freitas Business seminar, an annual cavalcade of idea-sharing. And you know what this means, don’t you? Poorly-composed photos of people sitting in conference rooms!
This is the sort of Winter Meetings coverage you just can’t find anywhere else.
From there I headed to the Stemmons Ballroom, to check out the Opening Session speeches (more on all of this can be found on that old internet stalwart MiLB.com. My coverage there has actual substance).
Even more people in an even bigger room!
I skipped the annual Awards Luncheon, because no one ever gives me awards. But before heading back to my hotel room, I met up with Lake County Captains announcer Craig Deas so that he could give me this wonderful piece of Herman’s Head-related memorabilia:
The story behind this signed artifact is explained within this blog post on last season’s visit to Lake County, and further elucidated in this interview with pitcher Cole Cook.
But such issues cannot be explored on an empty stomach. Due to time and transportation constraints, lunch options at the Winter Meetings are severely limited. Fortunately, a short walk brought me to Buck’s Prime, who specialize in “mesquite-grilled burgers.”
The meal was more than acceptable, considering the circumstances:
After lunch it was to the biggest room yet, this time to engage in the rapid-fire “roundtable” portion of the Bob Freitas Seminar. MiLB.com jack-of-all trades Danny Wild took the following photo, which illustrates just how much effective a high-quality camera can be.
From there I joined the innumerable media hordes, in order to bring my words to you.
As for what the evening will bring — who knows? But there’s a good chance that instead of sitting in a room with a bunch of people, I will instead be standing in a room with a bunch of people. This “room”, most likely.
But only one thing’s for certain: I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.
See you tomorrow — live and direct from the Trade Show!