Editor's Note: Our own NostraDennis, on the scene in Orlando, gives us a brief glimpse into the enchanted world of MLB's winter meetings. - M.S.
She stood in the pale, translucent light on the Persian carpet. A minute passed. Then another. Then, another minute. Then ... another minute passed. Then another minute passed. And another. A further minute passed quickly, followed by another minute, when suddenly, a different minute passed, followed by another different minute. And another. And yet another further different minute. A minute passed. I glanced at my watch. It was a minute past. This was it. A minute passed. After a moment, another minute passed. I waited a minute while a minute passed quickly past. And then, a minute which seemed to last an hour but was only a minute ... passed.
Announcer: That was "A Minute Passed", by John Finlissom. You can hear Episode Nine of "A Minute Passed" tomorrow night...at a minute past.- Monty Python's Flying Circus
And now for something completely different.
As Mike warned me, the MLB Winter Meetings is rumored to be the most boring event to cover if you have press credentials. I learned yesterday it can be even more tedious if you don't have press credentials. I don't want to say I was bored, but without the magic name tag, you can't go too far into the inner sanctum.
Quite by accident, I learned in the middle of last week that Orlando was hosting the meetings this year. Had I known this even a month ago, I could have gotten an actual laminated lanyard and acted like a big-timey reporter for several days, but my time was limited to a Monday morning milling around the lobbies of the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin hotels.
In case you've never been there, these two hotels are very big, very pretty, and this week, very filled with a mix of baseball executives, journalists, and families with kids wearing mouse ears wondering who all these baseball executives and journalists were.
The opening session was scheduled for 11 am Monday, so I took advantage of a day off from my real job and headed down to Lake Buena Vista. All the parking there costs money, and I'm a cheapskate. Fortunately, my brother-in-law was at that very hotel a few weeks earlier shooting video for some chiropractic conference, so I had a chance to scope out the territory without realizing I'd be taking advantage of that information quite so soon. I parked at Mickey's Fantasia Mini-Golf across the street from the Dolphin. As long as you walk through the parking lot to the front desk, and make believe you're considering working on your putts for a while, you can park there unchallenged. A short jog over to the hotels allowed me a good three hours to see who I could see.
Some cool baseball personality sightings: Dallas Green was there representing the Phillies, and Steve Phillips was there for ESPN. I bit my tongue and hid my Mike's Mets blog printout with the NY logo for both these dudes. No sense getting tossed off Disney property needlessly by telling them what I really thought of their performance with MY team. Peter Gammons was there, looking thin and a bit frail, but generally healthy. A passel of other journalists whose names I knew, but with whose work I wasn't familiar, were also in attendance. No Buster Olney, Wallace Matthews, or Bill Price in sight, at least not my sight.
Topps was there, giving out goodie bags. I didn't see what was in them, but since I knew I wouldn't be snagging one, I really didn't want to see what I wasn't getting.
Other features included a sports medicine ballroom, and several league seminars broken down by level and by region.
I was amazed how many minor league clubs were represented. It seemed 90 percent of the name tags I saw were for teams like the Albuquerque Isotopes (yes, they changed their name thanks to Homer Simpson), the Savannah Sand Gnats, and the Toledo Mud Hens. I was fortunate enough to run into Jessica DeOro, the promotions director of the New Orleans Zephyrs. Now I have one more incentive to drive 11 hours each way from Orlando to Metairie, LA. Jessica promised me a guided tour of the park. (And maybe a clubhouse tour, too - we'll see.)
I ran into a few young ladies from the Montgomery Biscuits. The Biscuits used to be the Orlando Rays; before that, the Orlando Cubs. They said the team's doing well, and attendance was way up. I was always amazed that a double-A team in a city as big as Orlando, in a venue as beautiful as Cracker Jack Stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports, couldn't pull in a thousand fans a game.
At these meetings, individual teams set up smaller group meetings throughout the week in hotel suites; I presume that's where each team's local media touches base throughout the Meetings. A question or two to the concierge got me the room numbers of the Mets' suites. Feeling like a Peeping Tom, I headed up to the fifth floor and found one Mets suite door cracked open, and heard people inside talking. I wasn't able to get any good grist for the blogging rumor mill, though. Besides, I'm sure Disney hallway cameras would have detected an intruder alert had I continued skulking around in the hallway.
An MLB job fair convention room was already in full swing by Monday morning. That room was full of so many fresh, young, optimistic faces from the minors, putting in their resumes with the big clubs. I heard a few on their cellphones outside swearing that they knew they'd be a perfect fit for this or that team. The Mets were one of half a dozen teams interviewing at the time - they're looking for promotion and publicity assistants. Anyone interested, call the Mets, but be prepared. Most of those positions are 9 to 5 jobs, PLUS every home game night until at least 11 pm.
The more I mingled, the more I thought to myself that I'd love to work inside baseball. Then I realized that my current salary was about what the average double-A GM pulls in, and that's after at least a decade or so of paying your dues while getting by on a much smaller income. I'd love to do it, but I have a wife, two daughters, a mutt and a Chihuahua to feed. Oh, well - if I ever win the lottery, I'll just buy a team. Besides, when you work in an industry that's your first love, the shine and excitement can wear off quickly. It was that way for me with radio. To me, it's just a job, that happens to include frequent brushes with celebrities from movies, TV, and music. Emeril's coming in next week? That's cool. That reminds me - when's lunch?
Here at the Winter Meetings, I thought I could plop myself down on a couch in the hotel lobby and hear all kids of dirt. But I got only one worthwhile "overheard at the winter meetings" comment, from an unnamed Braves executive (unnamed because I couldn't see his name tag): "You know, Tanyon Sturtze is highly underrated."
It must really suck to be a Braves fan these days.