Greetings from Orlando! It’s Wednesday morning at the Baseball Winter Meetings. Cougars staff have been here at the Disney complex after arriving on Monday. We’ll be leaving tonight for Chicago, and it’s been a nice week as the baseball world centers its attention towards the happenings that the Winter Meetings typically provide. Yes, we are trying to bottle up the weather to bring back home for everyone- but I can confirm that there’s something a little weird and even unsettling about hearing Christmas music and seeing holiday decorations in 85-degree weather. I’m a Midwesterner, so it’s time to get back home – even if it’s in the midst of an arctic plunge.
Last night, we enjoyed a reception hosted by the Cubs. All of the affiliates were invited, ranging from Short-A Boise to Triple-A Iowa, and we had the opportunity to meet (and reunite) with quite a few people, including new Cubs manager (and former Cougars manager) Rick Renteria, new farm development director Jaron Madison, and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. Each of the above individuals took a few minutes to share some thoughts on the upcoming season and you just get the sense that the overwhelming sentiment is one of confidence and trust that the plan instilled by the Cubs a couple of years ago, is progressing nicely. Numerous publications have continued to rate the Cubs farm system as one of the deepest and strongest in the Major Leagues, and Class-A Advanced Daytona was named Minor League Team of the Year by Baseball America. There’s a lot of excitement as well regarding the Cubs new spring training home in Mesa, which will surely be enjoyed by players, Cubs staff and fans who will attend games there for the first time in March.
It’s also nice to have each of the people I mentioned take the time to talk personally with each of us last night.
Many of the activities, whether it’s the job fair, trade show or league-wide meetings have taken place inside the Swan and Dolphin resort. It’s a very nice spot within the Disney property that has a beautiful lake running near it, with a boardwalk that includes various shops, restaurants and a dueling piano bar. If you’ve never had the opportunity to check out a dueling piano bar, do yourself a favor and make a night of it there. Any musician that can seamlessly transition from a Lady Gaga cover to REO Speedwagon to Bob Marley deserves some recognition.
I know I mentioned this in last year’s Winter Meetings blog, but the job fair is a large part of the week. Interested job seekers invest their time, money and more to attend this event, to see and interview for countless jobs and internships throughout Minor League Baseball. It’s always a good idea to take a walk through that part of the Winter Meetings to realize that we all were once there – young and anxious to get a job working in baseball, and working in such a rewarding, humbling and unique environment that only Minor League Baseball can provide.
Some other important parts of the week: a massive trade show where we’re able to see vendors who can provide products to use at our games next season, marketing meetings, workshop sessions and much more.
Inevitably, there is the people-watching component of the Winter Meetings where there’s an opportunity to see former players, managers and executives throughout the week. Recently-retired manager Jim Leyland is one person we’ve just happened to see 10 or so times this week – simply coincidental. Others include Tommy Lasorda, Andre Dawson, Jack McKeon, Mark Prior, and Leyland’s successor as Tigers skipper, Brad Ausmus.
I’ll close out this blog with some photos from the week. As always, thanks for reading!