While I may be stretching the definition of “On the Road” by labeling this an “On the Road” post, I was indeed out of the office and hence “On the Road” this past week, visiting the city of Louisville for the annual industry event that is the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. Perhaps you aware of this event, either through attending it yourself or through reading my coverage over the years (I attended from 2008-2011 before taking last year off because I was in a bad mood).
Regardless, the premise is simple:
Minor League Baseball teams all operate within their own markets and, hence, don’t compete with one another. Therefore, the industry is big on idea sharing and the Promotional Seminar represents an opportunity to do just this. I sense a redundancy attack coming, so rather than succumb I’m just going to quote from my recently published MiLB.com piece:
The Promotional Seminar is a well-structured event, with the agenda divided into three main components: Presentations (in which one speaker presents to all attendees), Power Sessions (moderated panel discussions in front of all attendees) and Group Therapy (categorically divided small group discussions running concurrently with one another).
I’d ask that you please read this aforementioned MiLB.com piece, but as for this blog post it’s going to be a bit more ramshackle and (inevitably) me-centric. Also, it’s going to be chronological and it will only focus on Day One of the seminar.
Tuesday, September 24
After sleeping my way through two flights (the Charlotte airport, I hardly knew ye), I arrived in Louisville a little after noon and proceeded to high tail it to (or more accurately, take a cab to) the downtown Galt House Hotel. This hotel, which can safely be categorized as a behemoth, features two buildings connected by a street-spanning pedestrian walkway. Here’s the view from down the block because, apparently, that’s the photo I could muster.
At 3 o’clock I was scheduled to moderate a Group Therapy discussion, entitled “If You Book Them, Will They Come: What Touring Acts Drive Attendance and Why?” I tried my best to put together an outfit in which I looked business casual chic but instead doofusness resulted. It usually does.
Overall I thought this went well, although the conversation didn’t flow as fast and furiously as it had in the session that took place just prior to mine (“How to Promote a Promotion” moderated by Jen Borowski of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans). Later a few people told me that it had been a tad awkward that several touring performers were in the room, making it so that those working for front offices were hesitant to talk openly about their booking strategies (or lack thereof).
On an industry-wide level one can find many different viewpoints regarding touring performers (which include everyone from the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo show to Reggy the Purple Party Dude to Utility Man Ben to Fur Circus to Louisville’s own Zooperstars! posse). Some teams swear by ’em, saying that whether fans explicitly come to see them or not they leave the ballpark with indelible memories that will certainly influence their willingness to spring for tickets again. Other teams say that touring perforomers don’t justify the cost, as promotional budgets are limited and its cheaper to develop and promote entertainment in-house.
I understand both views, and don’t think that they are necessarily mutually exclusive. In some alternate reality in which I controlled a promo budget, I’d prioritize in-house talent but nonetheless be adamant about booking 2-3 touring performers a year as its nearly impossible to rival the entertainment that can be provided by road-hardened pros. (Best case scenario, of course, is that sponsorship can be found for the touring act in question so that it doesn’t have to come out of the promo budget at all.)
Digression complete, it was time to proceed past the Trade Show (which represents a chance for exhibitors to re-establish connections and gain some name recognition before the gargantuan free-for-all that is the Winter Meetings) and into the Grand Ballroom.
If there’s one image that, year to year, defines the Promo Seminar it would be this: a bunch of people in a hotel ballroom listening to a speech. I think I’m now starting to understand why my coverage of this event generates virtually no interest whatsoever outside of the industry. (Or in it, for that matter. Why am I writing this?)
Highlights of this truncated Tuesday afternoon portion included Amy Venuto’s impassioned (my notes say “evangelical”) talk on “season seat holder membership programs” as well as Nashville Sounds GM Brad Tammen’s talk on getting the most out of dilapidated facilities. This latter presentation seemed cathartic more than anything else, as Tammen shared the many trials and travails he has experienced while operating in Greer Stadium (flooded front offices and collapsed entrance ways are a way of life).
A welcoming cocktail reception followed, and while I’m all for boozing it up with the industry I had to make a quick exit as earlier in the week I had made arranged to meet with longtime reader Stevo, a score-keeping savant and “semi-retired punk/metal atavist” who lives in Louisville. Before making our way to a local eatery, Stevo pointed out a few points of interest. Such as this:
While the downtown Louisville Slugger Museum includes a working factory, Stevo pointed out that the majority of the company’s output is actually produced in this far less scenic environment. This makes sense because while the museum is a great place to visit (I was there on Friday), it seems unlikely that it alone could handle the demands that come as a result of being the world’s number one wooden bat provider.
Stop two was duPont Manual High School, established in 1892 as an all-male institution and now a co-ed magnet school serving grades 9-12. It is one of Louisville’s most iconic buildings and, more important for our baseball-centric purposes: Pee-Wee Reese went there!
But one of Auburn’s most recent claims to fame is a distinct negative, an ignominious anti-accomplishment that the city hopes to shed faster than a moulting snake on steroids: in its list of America’s best sports cities, the Sporting News ranked Auburn #399 out of a possible #399.
The New York-Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays aren’t going to take this lack of respect lying down. They’ve stood tall to their nationally distributed oppressor by announcing an essay contest, asking fans to explain (in 500 words or less) why Auburn deserves a higher ranking. The winner of this contest will receive general admission season tickets as well as official recognition during the “399 Classic”.
“What’s the 399 Classic?” I just heard a voice behind me whisper. Well, my reliable companion Press Release has the answer to that:
The Doubledays will face off against Tri City (representing Troy, NY
which was rated #398 on the same list) in a three game series from July
14 – 16 which the Doubledays have dubbed The 399 Classic!
Events surrounding The 399 Classic include a special reward to the 399th
fan through the gates every night, a surprise giveaway of the 399th
best possible giveaway item and a contest to win a “Mad About You:Season
4” DVD set (399th on Amazon.com’s most popular DVD list).
Anyone have any other ideas how the number “399” could be celebrated? I’m thinking Al Kaline has to be a part of it somehow, seeing as how he retired with 399 home runs. Or how about inviting members of Local 399: the International Union of Operating Engineers? Finally, why not celebrate the works of Chinese poet and historian Yuan Shansong, who died in the year 399 while defending Hudu during the rebellion of Sun En?
— Minor League Baseball has announced that the 2010 Promotional Seminar will be held in Las Vegas from September 28-October 1. This means that I get to make a return trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame! Who’s going with me? We can ride the bus together.
— Finally, I wanted to note that the Kannapolis Intimidators are offering free admission to all active-duty military personnel throughout the 2010 campaign. As the press release notes:
“Anyone that shows any form of Military ID, active, retired or a family
member ID at the Intimidators Will Call Window will receive two free
tickets to the game. This offer is valid for all 70 home games in the
It is been rather difficult for me to update the blog over the past several days, as the task of attending and then writing about the promotional seminar has proven to be all-encompassing. Nonetheless, there are a few pertinent matters that I feel my readership needs to be aware of.
Matter the first is this:
My comprehensive “Year in Promotions” article is now up on MiLB.com.
Read it, explore the copious linkage provided, and, most importantly, VOTE for your favorite promotion of the season. The more votes this article gets, the more my existence is justified. At the very least, then, think of this as a charitable act — pitch in to improve the mental health of a perpetually anxious and dissatisfied baseball writer!
I have been covering the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar as if I were some sort of journalist.
Read about it HERE. I have been enjoying myself in New Orleans, overall, and it’s been a great opportunity to meet/reconnect with those in “the industry.” My one complaint has been the lack of quality food. New Orleans is a culinary mecca, offering dishes of virtually unfathomable deliciousness as if it were no big thing. But I’ve had to subsist on generic catered hotel offerings, and even our field trips to outside locations have resulted in little more than chicken fingers and pasta. I need something authentic, or else I might turn to dust.
Finally, an article I wrote about Cole Hamels can be found HERE. These sort of stories, they help to pass the time.
And Since I’ve Got Your Attention (maybe)…
I am always curious if any readers of this blog can relate to my musical sensibilities (which are admittedly all over the place). What I am currently looking forward to are the new albums from Om and Anti-Pop Consortium. If this, or anything I write, means anything to you then please get in touch.
Yesterday, I participated in Minor League Baseball’s “Habitat for Humanity” volunteer project. A proper article on the event can be found HERE, but I figured I may as well provide a more me-focused perspective. And that perspective is this: I have no construction skills whatsoever. It’s just embarrassing. I may be adept at taking public transportation, playing pinball, and sporadically updating this blog, but when it comes to the ability to do skilled physical labor, I offer absolutely nothing.
The day started a little after 7 am, and I was the last one on the bus due to a miscommunication involving what time we were supposed to be on said bus. As I hopped on board, what I should have said to those assembled before me was “Chain, meet your weakest link.”
I spent the bulk of the day working on the future home of Ms. Clorestine Haney, a single mother of two eager to have her own house in New Orleans after spending the last four years in Baton Rouge as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Clorestine was exceedingly likable, and I was happy to pitch in on her behalf. But, really, what I accomplished over the course of seven hours could have been done by a skilled laborer in about 30 minutes. This is not an exaggeration.
I was placed on the “blocking” team. For those who have never “blocked” before (I’m looking at you, Detroit Lions’ offensive line), the task entails nailing pieces of wood in between wall studs. These pieces of wood then provide support for cabinets and other such domestic attachments.
The thing is, the wood often needs to be nailed into very tight spaces, and there is therefore no opportunity to hammer it in in a straightforward way. Instead, one must “toenail” — that is to say, hammer in the nail on an angle, often underneath and diagonal to its ultimate destination.
And I just couldn’t seem to do it right. As those around me slowly got the hang of it, I would find myself spending upwards of a half hour nailing in a single block of wood. There were many, many missteps. I spent a lot of my time trying to extract nails that missed the block completely, and were simply lodged in the walls. Often, I would get the block in place only to find that it was not quite in its intended location, and I would then have to start over yet again. In all, I found a dizzying array of ways to make a mistake.
Naturally, this made me very self-conscious. I couldn’t help but think that everyone who saw me was secretly laughing at the glacial pace upon which I was proceeding. I fostered this conception by constantly making self-deprecating remarks about my lack of skill (later, I even wrote a blog about it).
But, by and large, everyone else was wrapped up in their own tasks. Therefore, my lack of production went largely unnoticed. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but fear like an imposter at the end of the day, posing for a group picture as if I had, you know, actually done something.
None of this is to say that I don’t want to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity again, or ever engage in physical labor. I rather enjoy the latter, actually, and have had successful stints in the past as a kitchen “utility” worker (Foulkeways Retirement Home, 1995-1999) and package handler (UPS, 2002-03). And I truly would welcome the opportunity to participate in a Habitat project again — after all, there would be no where to go but up.
But the biggest realization that I came to yesterday is that no matter what it is specifically, I need to volunteer more often. It’s something I have done sporadically through the years, but there’s no excuse for the fact that I do not to it more often. I have the time to play in a pinball league and meet friends for drinks and blog about the Minor Leagues and all sorts of other frivolous matters — it goes without saying that I should therefore also have the time to give back in some way.
Just don’t ask me to do blocking. Seriously.
Talking ‘Bout Last Night — After my long day of failure, I decided that the proper course of action would be to go out on the town. An impromptu Google search for “New Orleans concert listings” turned up the fact that the Baseball Project was playing at a rock club in the French Quarter! I have blogged about the Baseball Project in the past, and was disappointed when I missed them in NYC last week. When I saw that they were playing, I knew I had to go. It was my destiny.
The show was at One-Eyed Jack’s, one of the best rock clubs I have ever been to. It was perfect in size (400 capacity, not too big, not too small) as well as design. Here’s a picture I lifted from the website:
Also, there was a very well-maintained “Elvis” pinball machine located in the venue’s front room.
As for the show itself, it was billed as “An Evening With the Minus 5, the Baseball Project, and the Steve Wynn IV performed by Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon.” So while it wasn’t all Baseball Project material, they ended up playing nearly every song on the album (as well as loads of other stuff). The crowd couldn’t have numbered much more than 75, but they were extremely enthusiastic and a jovial mood prevailed throughout. Those who like raucous rootsy garage rock (and baseball!) couldn’t have asked for more.
For me, the highlight of the show was the encore. They led it off with “Harvey Haddix”, which tells the story of the perfect game that wasn’t (Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings before losing in the 13th). The song’s chorus is a recitation of every player in Major League history who has thrown a perfect game, ending with “Why don’t you add ol’ Harvey to that list?” (live, they revised the chorus to include Mark Buehrle, who threw his perfect game after the song had been written).
“Harvey Haddix” was followed by something wholly unexpected and thoroughly enjoyed — a cover of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues”. This song, a propulsive (and exceedingly paranoid) meditation on rock and roll life in the post-hippie 70s, is the highlight of 1974’s “On the Beach.” And if you like Neil Young even a little bit and don’t have “On the Beach” — well, then, that is a situation that needs to rectified immediately.
Soon, I will leave the plush confines of MiLB.com HQ in order to take a subway to Penn Station. From there, I will board a NJ Transit train to Newark International Airport. After riding on an inexplicably over-priced “AirTrain” in order to get to the proper terminal, I will catch a flight to New Orleans International Airport. Finally, I will recieve an automobile ride to the Hilton Riverside Hotel.
That final location is the site of this year’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. I will be covering this event, from tomorrow’s Habitat for Humanity volunteer project all the way through Saturday’s closing remarks. Check MiLB.com for these dispatches from the Big Easy, and, of course, keeping visiting the blog. I’ll do my best to post throughout the week.
One thing’s for sure — the lowlight of this year’s seminar will take place between 10:30 and 11 on the morning of October 3. For it is then that I am scheduled to do a presentation on “The Year That Was in Minor League Promotions.” For those that won’t be there, allow me to summarize: “A bunch of stuff was given away, there were some theme nights, a few celebrities made special appearances, and, of course, a canine mascot pooped on the field on two separate occasions“.
Let me know if I’m missing anything.
It’s been nearly a week since I’ve been able to update this esteemed blog, as I was in the city of Austin, TX in order to cover the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. The city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird”, and us assembled Minor League folks did just that! I mean, what’s weirder than spending nearly all your waking hours at an antiseptic hotel 12 miles away from downtown? That’s some high-grade eccentricity right there!
Fortunately, I was able to experience the city in a more meaningful fashion over the weekend, and if this was “Ben’s Personal Blog” I’d regale you with stories regarding the many adventures that were had. But, alas, it is not. “All Biz, All the Time” is how it goes ’round these parts, so let’s keep things moving in a crisp and orderly fashion.
First off, regarding the seminar, my coverage can be found here, here, here and here. There truly were many interesting and innovative ideas bandied about, and I hope to follow up on many of them as we head toward ’09. And, of course, it was great making personal connections with many whom I had previously only known through email or the telephone. There are few things more gratifying than being able to put a face to the name. And vice versa!
While I was gone, I did not have time to stay up to date with Minor League press releases, those precious vessels of communication which provide me with so much but ask for so little. I got myself back up to speed throughout the course of this afternoon, fortunately, and I shall now share with you my favorite press release that came through the pike over the past week:
In their last act as the “Wizards” before announcing their new team
name and logo, Fort Wayne unveiled the most interesting “also-rans” from their recently-concluded “Name the Team Contest”:
“General Manager Mike Nutter explained, ‘Among the over 2,500
suggestions received, there were many great suggestions. There were
also candidates of questionable relevance, questionable taste and those
we just didn’t get. The humorous offerings from the community were much
appreciated. In addition to demonstrating some tremendous creativity,
they really helped keep the process fun for us as we waded through well
over 2,000 serious selections.'”
As a public service to their loyal fan base, the club concluded the press release by listing 10 of the most amusing names that were submitted:
10. Fort Wayne Newtons
9. Fort Wayne Dudes
8. Fort Wayne Weiner Dogs
7. Fort Knocks
6. Fort Wayne Fashizzle
4. Fort Wayne Mighty Gherkins
3. Fort Wayne.ComPadres
2. Harrison SquarePants
1. Hoosier Daddies
The press release includes several other rejected names, and my favorite of these is undoubtedly the “Fort Wayne Whacker Smackers.” But the undisputed highlight is this line, about some of the family-unfriendly nicknames that were submitted:
“[There were] numerous names derived from that of former Mayor Harold Baals, names
referencing the numbers adorning the nearest highways and other
inappropriate uses of bats and balls.”
Since this blog is itself family-friendly, I will refrain from speculating on what these names might have been. Besides, I believe the Mayor Baals is an upstanding public servant who needs to be treated with respect.
Those who blasphemously find their Minor League biz news from other sources will be aware that Fort Wayne has already announced their new name and logo. I’ll “reveal” that information tomorrow, but for now I would just like to compliment the club for taking the time to share some of the names that were rejected. Here’s hoping that this becomes a standard component of future “Name the Team” contests.