While the Bollagio hotel gets the most attention around this time of year, during the Baseball Winter Meetings, there is even more sports business going on at the accompanying minor league hotel.
This year, the Hilton Hotel and convention center and the next-door Las Vegas Convention Center was the home of the minor league Baseball Winter Meeting activities, and the annual job seekers program.
While the majority of minor league executives trickled into town for Monday's big business seminars, several of them were already in place on Sunday, lecturing hundreds of aspiring sports management employees.
The job seeking program starts off with the Business of Baseball Workshop. This is the seminar sponsored by Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities for around 450 mostly young people who payed $225 ($175 in advance) to listen to stories from experienced minor league executives.
The fee includes a one-year subscription to PBEO's online job posting forum, available from http://www.pbeo.com.
The workshop's agenda included officers from all over minor league baseball (we use that term in the lower case, not the "Minor League Baseball" which refers to the governing body of affiliated minor league teams).
Seamus Gallivan, Promotions Coordinator of the Corpus Christi Hooks emceed the entire day. More than a dozen speakers included Dave Chase, President and General Manager of the Memphis Redbirds, Nikki Becker, Vice President of Communications for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and Manny Colon, Assistant, Player Development, for the Florida Marlins.
They all recalled their days of seeking their first jobs in baseball, and how they came to hold their current positions.
Ms. Becker advised job seekers to always say "YES" whenever asked to do anything by team management. She told stories of how she has done everything from pulling tarp in the rain, to putting on a hot, sweaty, mascot uniform.
A distinguished panel of speakers included Sam Bernabe, General Manager of the Iowa Cubs, Ken Young, President of the Norfolk Tides, and the Pawtucket Red Sox President, Mike Tamburro.
Mr. Bernabe described his experience of securing his first baseball job at the 1983 Nashville Baseball Winter Meetings, as an intern, then later becoming the general manager of the team, and more recently, a part owner of the Iowa Cubs.
Mr. Tamburro discussed his memories of "The Longest Game" in professional baseball history, the famous game on April 18th (and June 23rd), 1981, a game which lasted 33 innings. He went on to say that he bought the Pawtucket franchise when it had financial problems several years later.
Ken Young added that his start in baseball was through his position in the food service industry, and suggested that starting in food service was a good entry into a professional baseball career. He also advised the job seekers to carefully consider whether they wanted to work in baseball. "You might not like working in sports, and it might not be the thing for you," he said.
Particularly interesting was Pat O'Conner, the President and CEO of Minor League Baseball. His discussion was entitled "Positioning Yourself for Success," and was another engaging 30 minutes of both reality and inspiration for the job seekers.
O'Conner described his ascent from an intern with the minor league central office, which he referred to as the "N.A.", to it's top executive.
The "N.A." is the old nickname for teams affiliated with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. The NAPBL was the name of the governing body before they embraced what once was considered a demeaning term, "Minor Leagues." Hence, the governing body of the Major League affiliated teams is now called "Minor League Baseball."
O'Conner channeled the old John Fogerty song, "Centerfield." He suggested that young job seekers attitudes should be "Hey, general manager, put me in the front office, I'm ready to play."
The names change, but the success stories of the panelists seems to be the same every year, and for many of the panelists, their stories of their baseball careers started with jobs secured at previous the Winter Meetings.
There is lots of advice to be had for these near-or-recent college grads seeking their break in professional front office sports. The prevailing advice seems to be that in order to make it in baseball, you must be willing to do everything. And by "everything," that means sell.
Sell tickets, sell scorecard advertisements, sell radio time. If you can sell, you have a job in baseball, according to several panelists.
We'll describe some of the available jobs at these meetings in another installment from the Winter Meetings.
SIGHTINGS FROM THE HILTON HOTEL TODAY: San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavey with a woman who our spies called an "11".
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