Saturday, December 11, 2004

Baseball's Winter Meetings: Saturday, Day 2

Busy day lined up. So far, three interviews on schedule with the Williamsport Crosscutters, New Jersey Cardinals, and Vermont Expos.

6:30 AM: Wake up call. Shower, shit, shave - blue shirt or white? Blue. After putting on the only suit I own, time to get to the convention center. I've got interviews at 11, 12:30, and 1:00.

8:00 AM: A continental breakfast is set up for the jobseekers in the PBEO workroom. I grab a muffin, some orange juice, and wolf it down while reading Baseball America's new magazine. I see they've given out lifetime achievement awards - one to John Schuerholz, another to Roger Jongewaard (the guy in charge of the Seattle Mariners draft). Schuerholz is a tremendous GM, but I’ve got some pejorative thoughts about Jongewaard. While he can be praised for drafting a no-brainer like Alex Rodriguez and made a good pick in Ken Griffey Junior, he's also been lowballing draft picks in the last couple years. Whether there's some new organizational policy that has transcended both Pat Gillick's and Bill Bavasi's regimes, I don't know - but the one constant in the draft in the last few years has been that the Mariners either give up their top picks by signing Type A free agents or just don't sign their first round pick (John Mayberry Jr. being an example). Whatever. It just doesn't seem smart.

I meet a local college kid who's hanging around the lobby with resumes in hand, trying to stop any executive he meets and introduce himself. He finds another jobseeker, and asks him if he's an executive. The jobseeker answers no, but sells the idea of signing up for the job fair to the kid. I try to tell the kid that he has almost no chance of finding a job after the first day has past, and that he'll be wasting his money ($225 for on-site registration). Still, he's pretty cocky, and won't hear of it. Poor guy.

9:00 AM: The job posting room opens. After 250+ jobs were posted on Friday, so far only 6 have gone up Saturday. Many here were banking on Saturday postings to find their first interview after being shutout the day before - it's sad.

9:35 AM: I walk into the interview posting room and scan the walls again. And surprisingly, I see I've got my name up for another interview that begins at 10 AM - a stadium operations internship with the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA, PCL). I sign up for the first slot and wonder if the 5 other guys interviewing for the job will be able to sign up in time.

10:00 AM: Thankfully, I've got no time to be nervous. The interview goes smoothly, and the interviewer promises to keep in touch. This isn't so bad.

10:15 AM: I start walking back to the Marriott Starbucks to log back on the internet and do some research on the New Jersey Cardinals (11 AM interview) and the Williamsport Crosscutters (1:30 PM). In the lobby of the Marriott, I spot Peter Gammons and Steve Phillips standing next to each other in a corridor, but surprisingly, they aren't talking to anyone - just watching the hustling and bustling going on in the lobby. I take the opportunity to compliment Phillips on his broadcasting, asking him if he'd ever done it before - he answers "well, it's New York, so you do a little bit of everything." He smiles, shakes my hand again, and says thanks. From what I've seen and read about Phillips (he'll take the time to talk to anyone, even read through their resume when it's thrust in front of him), he's an extremely nice guy, and this exchange seems to support that assertion. Hell, even the type of guy I'd like to be friends with if he weren't 25-30 years older than me. Nice hair, too.

11:00: Interview with the New Jersey Cardinals for Clubhouse Manager position.

11:05: Done with the interview. Short, and more like an information session - the interviewer did most of the talking. Told me to keep in touch - I'm not too keen on working for the guy, but the job pays about $1200/month (salary + tips + dues) and fits my schedule perfectly. Of course, I'd have to do laundry and keep myself extremely organized.

11:10: After checking the interview board, I see that I've got an interview with the Boise Hawks tomorrow- I sign up for the last time slot out of a possible three, and then head over to the Marriott Starbucks.

11:20 AM: I grab a $3 small iced tea from Starbucks and sit down with the laptop, checking all the deals going on. I see Peter Gammons pacing around on his phone's hands-free thingy right in front of me. He sees Catherine Silver - President/CEO of Baseball America (the sponsor of the winter meetings) - and quickly ends his phone conversation. Silver, Gammons, and one other Baseball America suit converge about 3 feet away from my table, right in front of me, and they start a conversation.

This might be considered eavesdropping, but whatever, they started talking 3 feet in front of me and I had a laptop - they should have figured this conversation was going straight to the internet. Silver talked about a new idea that they wanted to roll out with ESPN where they'd do a prospect report from different regions. Silver talked about "you could see this prospect come through town tomorrow" and that this prospect report would be "brought to you by Chevrolet." She said Gammons would intro it of course, and that it would be a great hit. Sounds stupid to me, but I'm not the really pretty president/CEO of Baseball America.

After pitching the idea to Gammons, John Schueholz talks with Silver, and Silver shows Schueholz the full-page picture of him in the latest BA where they award Schuerholz some lifetime achievement thing.

Oh, and Gammons mentions something about "50 cent beers, drinking age was 18, Carolina League" - probably in some effort to prove to Silver that at one point in his life, he might have actually been hip, instead of just pretending to be hip like he's been doing the past 5 years.

And speaking of Gammons' attempts to be hip, Tony La Russa then comes up and shakes Peter's hand, and asks Gammons about his annual rock show fundraiser. “Some people have golf tournaments and events, I’ve got a rock concert.”

After a 20 minute conversation, Silver left, and gave me the opportunity to harass Gammons for a minute. I told him I enjoyed his work, was a big fan, and he smiled and said thanks. I then asked if the Royals were going to do something, and he said they've decided to sit tight (code: I don't know because I don't care about small-market moves). I also asked him if Theo came down, and he said most GMs just stay in their room.

Then I bought a 10 dollar chicken panini sandwich. Fries were an extra $4.

12:30 PM: Interview with the Vermont Expos. This interviewer had a list of 10 questions or so, and asked stuff like "list 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses). It all went well, and the most appealing part about the job with the Vermont team was the front office atmosphere – everyone in there was younger than 30 (including the GM), and everyone seemed like they loved it. Additionally, the GM and his two major assistants both started out as interns with the Expos, so they could relate – and they hired a total of 10 interns, which you’d live with in housing at the University of Vermont for 300$/month. Downside? Internship is unpaid, Great atmosphere, great league, and it fits my schedule well – just not paid. But considering a salary of $500/month really isn’t that much in the first place, then who knows?

1:00 PM: My last interview of the day – with the Williamsport Crosscutters. I came into today excited the most at the prospect of working with the Crosscutters - $500/month, in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series, and the responsibilities for Stadium Operations intern seemed the greatest (and most concrete). One of the biggest responsibilities that stuck out was “train and supervise 8-10 ushers, and oversee cleaning and maintenance.” The idea of actually holding some power (“supervise”) is attractive.

I sat down with a woman and a man, and they were both extremely nice. There were the typical questions – “why do you want to get into baseball” – “where do you see yourself in 5 years” – and then a typical question for me – “we get a lot of people with sports management majors – why are you majoring in economics or history?” I loved the two interviewers – the man was very kind and a little (grand)fatherly - he had started out as a 12-year season ticket holder who housed Williamsport players (D.J. Carrasco stayed with him) and then got into the front office, and the woman was a little shy but constantly smiling. The job itself sounded great - $500/month, fuel was paid for, cheap housing, and they’d try to help out with food too. Only downsides were they just had 4 full-time workers in the front office, and unlike the Expos, most of the front office didn’t seem too young. I told them that they were great, and hoped to keep in touch.

1:30 PM: Naptime.

3:30 PM: Back to the Marriott Starbucks. I see Paul DePodesta standing in line for a sandwich at the Starbucks/a-la-carte counter.
“Mr. DePodesta… I’m a big fan of the way you work – just a quick question regarding the signing of Jeff Kent – the stats seem to show that he’s one of the best defensive second basemen, what was your view?”

“Kent is pretty solid - he’s not going to be spectacular, but he’ll be pretty good for us.”

“Do you use simple play-by-play stats to evaluate defense, or did you use something like AVM systems (more complex, PBP zone stats, measures hangtime) this year?”

“We used something closer to the latter.”

And then I made a joke about how freakin’ thin and small he was – that Michael Lewis wasn’t kidding when he said DePodesta had a St. Francis of Assisi’s build. Depodesta laughed, I said thanks, and thought “that guy is awesome.” Very engaging – when talking to anyone, he would give them his full attention. Many colleagues of Epstein say that Theo has the ability to walk into a room of people and quickly evaluate everyone – DePodesta seems to have that same quality – through those glasses, he would stare directly into your eyes, trying to get at exactly what you were talking about. Came off as brilliant. And just like me, he also had ordered a 10 dollar panini sandwich (good choice, Paul!).

5:30 PM: Headed back to my hotel, watched tee vee for an hour, worked out, ordered some room service (grilled chicken sandwich), then watched more tee vee till about 9. And then I fell asleep.

Famous people: Kevin Greene from Idaho Falls Chukars (featured in Lewin's Getting in the Game), Buck Showalter, Tony La Russa, Lou Pinella, Phil Garner, Dave Littlefield, Jim Bowden.

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