Greetings from Nashville! Hopefully everyone back in Chicago is continuing to enjoy these mild December temps. I can confirm that it certainly does not resemble Old Man Winter here, either. Yesterday’s mercury climbed towards the mid 70′s, which the locals admitted to me, is somewhat of a rarity in early December.
I’m checking in from the Baseball Winter Meetings, hosted by the Gaylord Opryland Resort. This is the first time that the meetings have been hosted by Nashville since 2007. As I’ve found out a little bit (although I haven’t gotten lost quite yet), the resort is not exactly the easiest to navigate. There are numerous wings, nooks, and what seem to be hidden pockets of the resort that I’m convinced you could be here for 3 weeks and not see. When I was here in 2007, I think my hotel-issued map was worn out by the end of the week.
I hope this blog helps shed some light on what takes place at the Winter Meetings, from the perspective of a Minor League Baseball organization. Much of what you will see on ESPN, the Chicago media and MLB Network, among many news outlets here, will revolve around the “hot stove” talk, as players are dealt, signed, moved, or drafted (the Rule 5 Draft takes place later this week).
I can assure you that there’s a lot more that encompasses the week. So here’s where we’re at to this point.
We arrived Monday afternoon at Opryland and after getting checked in, I sat in on a couple of meetings. One of which was a National Marketing Meeting hosted by Minor League Baseball. The meeting was led by some of the MiLB staff to talk about some national sponsorships that minor league clubs were involved with last year. As a lot of fans know, sponsorships are a key component of any team’s revenue, and several promotions each year involve a partnership between a brand or company and multiple minor league teams, with the MiLB marketing folks acting as an intermediary of sorts between the company and the club.
The daytime activities also included several business seminars, that similar to the Promotional Seminar I blogged about in October, give club executives a chance to idea share with their peers and pick up some valuable ideas to implement in 2013.
Most of the seminars and meetings conclude by dinner, giving attendees a chance to unwind a bit and connect with colleagues, people watch (more on that later), and spend some time getting around Opryland, with its vast array of shops and sights.
This morning was a busy one. After grabbing breakfast, I sat in on a Public Relations session hosted by MiLB. We spent some time at the trade show, which is a massive part of the Winter Meetings. Nearly every type of vendor has a display for minor league executives to check out. Mascot costumes, mascot troupes you can hire for a game, companies that produce giveaway promotional items, companies that can re-sod your field, and new concessions items are just several examples of booths you’ll see.
I also tried to spend some time checking out the PBEO Job Fair. Hundreds of people from every part of the country descend on the Winter Meetings each year, with the hope of applying, interviewing, and hopefully solidifying, a position within our industry. I always try to spend at least 5 minutes inside that area of the meetings, to remind myself of how unique our industry is and how many people are earnestly searching to find a profession that those of us find so rewarding year in and year out. I commend each job seeker who is essentially making a significant cost (and time) investment, to pursue their career ambitions. You should see the interview room. Dozens of tables, as you’d see inside a banquet room, are individually numbered and within close confines, there are interviews occurring rapid-fire.
Back to the people watching. There is no doubt that if you’re a baseball fan, and you love the notion of seeing former players (sometimes even current players), managers and executives all right in front of you, this is the place to be without question. About 10 seconds after we received our room keycards yesterday, I saw Jack McKeon, Tommy Lasorda and Jim Leyland conversing in the hotel lobby. I remember in 2007 walking right down the hotel hallway, with Cal Ripken Jr. coming the other way. Our lunch spot today was shared by Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who was dining at the next table. That’s simply how the Winter Meetings are over the course of a week – countless situations where you say to yourself, “Oh, that’s (insert name of notable baseball person). That said, you also see quite a few collectors roaming the common areas of the hotel, hoping to get an autograph on a piece of memorabilia.
So overall, it’s been a great week. I’ll try to get an updated blog before we fly home tomorrow. Tonight, the Cubs are hosting an affiliate reception, which each MLB club does for their farm teams and baseball executives. We’re looking forward to that. A few meetings tomorrow and some additional time at the trade show and yes, maybe some chances to knock out a little Christmas shopping here at Opryland are on the agenda.
One last note – Nashville is now home to Jeff Hem, who many of you might remember, as Jeff was the play-by-play radio announcer from 2005 through 2011 with the Cougars. We’ve had some time to connect with him here at the winter meetings, and by all accounts, his first year at Triple-A as the voice of the Nashville Sounds was tremendous for him.
We’ll be in touch here soon! Thanks for reading.