Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny and Bard to Boston

So the Red Sox response to the New York spending binge has finally come out in the way of two great investments. Brad Penny and Josh Bard are two players that have showed themselves as being far better than their 2008 performances and the Red Sox did a nice job in picking up this duo for cheap. While Penny has only pitched in the National League, he will benefit from working with "stuff" pitchers in Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Pitching coach John Farrell has done an excellent job transforming Josh Beckett into an American League starter and I imagine that Penny will receive similar instruction. This is also going to be a rotation of 95+ MPH hurlers with Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester and now Penny all being able to light up the gun.

Interestingly enough, Josh Bard is back in Boston after being passed over for Doug Mirabelli because of his inability to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. A season in which Bard hit .338, 9, 40 after the trade to San Diego. This signals to me that the Red Sox may be moving past Jason Varitek or certainly will provide him with less playing time because Bard would probably not be catching Wakefield after the debacle in 2006. If Bard and Varitek do indeed make the Opening Day roster, I would imagine that the Red Sox would also be carrying a third catcher to specifically catch Tim Wakefield. Personally, I would think that this signals the end of Jason Varitek's time in a Boston uniform because three catchers will not work for an AL team. Perhaps Javier Valentin or Gregg Zaun would make a good platoon catcher with Bard.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays to Fans in the Bronx

I have been rather quiet lately about the offseason, but with the Mark Teixeira signing today in New York, I think it is time for me to pipe up.

During the month of December, the New York Yankees and Brian Cashman have agressively been pushing their free agent dollars towards signing the top talent to fill the voids from their 2008 team. I have to admit that I am now very impressed that they have Teixeira. Starting over the summer, I saw the Yankees and also the Mets being big players for the slugger and when the Mets decided to stick with Carlos Delgado after a hot second half, the Yankees were the logical destination for Teixeira. When I heard that the Yankees were not all that interested in him up until today, I have been very critical of their signings of Sabathia and Burnett as it was their offense that really needed that extra bat to push it into a playoff picture again. They get that with Teixeira. The possibility for Manny Ramirez is probably closed now as well, which also makes sense for a franchise with 5 solid major league outfielders on its current 40-man roster.

Teixeira receives top-5 money with this deal, though I will argue that he will never be a top-5 player. Teixeira is a fantastic #3 hitter and his ability to get on base and get into scoring position will absolutely give Alex Rodriguez some incredible RBI opportunities. I love that 3-4 combo, it may be the best that Major League Baseball has to offer in the present, with respect to Braun/Fielder.

With the rest of the month, I expect that the Yankees are still not done. They should be looking for another starting pitcher and potentially be shopping around for a reliever and some assistance on the bench. Now that Teixeira has signed, the true market will determine itself and the bargains should start showing up. The market for Manny Ramirez should be back down to just the Dodgers, as the Angels and Yankees seem to be out. I expect the Mets to make a late run. If the Braves could put the personality aside, he makes a ton of sense in Atlanta. I expect January headlines to belong to the Braves, much like the December headlines went to the Yankees.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Five

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
The final day finally arrived. With little sleep, lots of junk food and beer in my system from the social networking portion of the Winter Meetings, it was time to wrap this experience up. On this day, I had a couple more interviews with the Connecticut Defenders as well as my rescheduled second interview with the Portland Beavers. Each of which went very well. Neither position has much appeal to me, but the practice of interviewing is always important to job seekers.

With the remainder of the day at the meetings, I spent my time with the friends that I had made during my time in Las Vegas. By putting so many people under the same roof with similar career desires and motivations, it was easy to make connections and friendships. I really enjoyed my time at the Winter Meetings in 2008 and the people I met and lessons I learned. Patience is going to pay off with this field and being able to make your own luck will go a long way for success. It was very appropriate to have a job fair in Las Vegas that taught these ideals. I will do my best to adapt and adhere to these general rules after this experience and hopefully a job opportunity will present itself in the coming days.

What a ride!

The Winter Meetings: Day Four

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Just as with Monday, the fourth day of the Winter Meetings provided me with some further insight about how to get into the business of baseball. Tuesday was the big day for job candidates as the interviews were running seemingly from 9:00 AM through the cocktail hour. On this day, I had five meetings scheduled in two different hotels and during four different times meaning that I had a double booking between the Pittsburgh Pirates Video Scouting internship as well as a second interview with the Portland Beavers for their Inside Sales Representative position. In addition to those two positions, I also met with the Chicago Cubs baseball operations department, interviewed with the New Britain Rock Cats and Savannah Sand Gnats. It was an incredibly hectic day that required me to go from the Las Vegas Hilton, where the job fair and many interviews were occurring, to the Bellagio, where the major league teams were operating their sessions for the Winter Meetings and then back and forth once more.

Starting with the Chicago Cubs baseball operations department, the day was off to a great beginning despite the circumstances. I had been in conversation throughout the past week or two with Dave Littlefield, scout to the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Littlefield was kind enough to invite me to this meeting of three Cubs baseball operations employees and about a dozen job seekers. Being one of the youngest people in the room, it was a very exciting moment to hear advice from professionals who have succeeded in the field. Some of the highlights of what Cubs management had to say was that those trying to enter into baseball operations need to realize that the position is not going to come immediately and it may take advantage of many internships and networking opportunities to be able to finally find the right opportunity in the field. The silver lining to what sounds like an insurmountable fiscal challenge was that after enough work and being around the sport, a position will eventually present itself. I absolutely believed these men as none had found their way to their respective positions with the Cubs in a conventional fashion. One was formerly in media relations, not getting his first shot at baseball operations until the age of 39, another a coach and minor league player that worked their way through several organizations to get into baseball operations, and the final a athletic trainer that played college baseball and is currently in the video scouting part to the game. None of these routes follow the paths of wunderkinds like Jon Daniels or Theo Epstein, who were given amazing opportunities right after college and groomed to their current positions as general managers.

Another very important lesson that I gained from this meeting was that being able to take initiative with baseball operations tasks such as scouting in a “bird-dog” type position would be important to those who want to try scout work. Bird-dog’s are unaffiliated amateur and professional talent evaluators that provide feedback to major league scouts when they need assistance seeing other areas of the country. This may be something to consider for a future in scouting. One final tip that I felt was important to note was that greater levels of education were important for making job seekers more attractive to a baseball operations department. Being able to speak another applicable language such as Spanish or Japanese or gaining advanced degrees in the form of a J.D. or MBA would be an excellent way to educate you further for a potential job in baseball. I know that I will seek to do both of these in the coming years.

I have to make a final note that I really appreciate what the Chicago Cubs did that morning with young job seekers, by communicating practical advice. It is also important for me to note that Dave Littlefield is one of the few people in baseball that will take the time to respond to phone-calls and communicate not only with job seekers, but with other general managers around the league. It was quite obvious to me that he has done an excellent job of networking as he exchanged greetings with many current general managers in the few minutes we spoke together. This was an incredible experience and I really have him to thank for this new sense of enlightenment.

After the Cubs meeting ended, I had to take a taxi cab back to the Las Vegas Hilton to make my meeting with the New Britain Rock Cats. This was an excellent interview and I really was impressed with what the team was presenting to me. For just about all of the interviews I had during the week, this was the only one that took the correct approach of both parties selling themselves to the other. The Rock Cats did an excellent job of selling their front office mindset as being a fun and competitive place that was highly results oriented. With a team of three interviewers, I got the sense that the Rock Cats organization was a tight-knit group of friends that worked together and received excellent results as a result. Not to mention, one of the interviewers was an Ithaca College alumna. While the position was not the baseball operations spot I have been looking for, I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with and maybe learn from the Rock Cats.

Of course, the next stop on the journey of interviews this day was to go back across town to the Bellagio again to interview with the Pittsburgh Pirates for their baseball operations video scout internship. This was the big interview that I was able to prepare for well in advance. I brought examples of scouting work that I had done previously and really bared my soul to the team that I was ready to learn and improve myself while working with their franchise. In what became nearly an hour-long interview, the Pirates gave me a glimpse at what working in baseball operations would be like and I have to say that it got me incredibly excited. I watched 30 pitches from as many different major league pitchers and commented as to what the pitches were. Then I took a look at a specific delivery and diagnosed the pitch and for what reason it was that type of pitch. Yes – I can see myself doing this type of thing and being very happy doing it. Overall, I like to think that this was an excellent interview for both parties, and I hope that something materializes with the Pirates as this would be my big break.

With the high of the Pirates interview, I had to get another cab to go back to the Hilton to get to a meeting with the Savannah Sand Gnats for their media relations director position. I met with their new ownership and was immediately impressed with what their organization was attempting to do. The Sand Gnats, under new ownership are looking to restructure their front office and I absolutely bought into what they were trying to do. We shared stories about their experience in law and my experiences and abilities with MS Office and being able to be creative with this position that they were interviewing me for. Perhaps this would not be the best fit, but I am very confident that the Sand Gnats are well on their way to becoming a successful minor league franchise with these owners at the helm.

So you all should realize that Tuesday of the Winter Meetings is crazy. Things could have been much better however if Major League Baseball wasn’t pent up in the Bellagio and PBEO was in the Hilton. Two different venues on two different ends of town ended up to be an unbelievable hassle to job seekers. Other than that however, it was an incredible day that taught me precious secrets and also hopefully saw an opportunity open up.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Three

Monday, December 8th, 2008
Monday was a wonderful change in what seems to be a rollercoaster of a job fair. Monday marked the beginning of the interviews for positions to which I had four interviews with the following positions:

Intern, Las Vegas 51’s
Marketing Trainee, Atlanta Braves
Inside Sales Representative, San Francisco Giants
Inside Sales Representative, Portland Beavers

The confusion that surrounded the day did allow for these four jobs to be possible to interview for. Based on my experience in marketing/sales, I was very pleased to see these types of results with the first day. It was really a wonderful feeling to interview with four of the jobs that I applied for the day before, with several more to come in the future days while in Las Vegas. The second day is supposed to be the big day for interviews and I will look forward to seeing how round two turns out as day one provided a ton of excitement as well as confusion. One of the most confusing parts to the first day of interviews was that the teams decided to select the times for the interviews which led to two overlaps of interviews that did eventually work themselves out, while creating plenty of anxiety. This day also saw new jobs and opportunities present themselves that I did apply for in the following positions:

Minnesota Twins Internships
Los Angeles Dodgers Minor League Video and Baseball Operations Internship
New Britain Rock Cats Ticket/Operations Intern
Salem Red Sox Baseball Operations Internship
San Antonio Missions Director of Public Relations
Augusta Green Jackets Corporate Sales Manager
Amberdeen Ironbirds Corporate Sales Manager
Savannah Sand Gnats Public/Media Relations Intern
Connecticut Defenders Group Sales Internship
Memphis Redbirds Communications Internship
Detroit/Lakeland Tigers Media Relations Coordinator

By broadening my horizons to these new positions, I hope to be able to receive further interview possibilities after a first day. Tuesday promises to be a busy day of shuffling back and forth between the Bellagio, where the MLB winter meetings are being held and the Las Vegas Hilton, where the PBEO (pbeo.com) job fair is occurring. Tomorrow brings a promise to be a fantastic day with second interviews, new interviews with many new teams and hopefully a fantastic opportunity in baseball operations at some point. With interviews with the Pirates, a career conference with the Cubs and hopefully some surprises, Tuesday will be the highlight of the trip.

One thing that I did determine today was that the entry level positions for baseball are a stepping stone for a future career. No matter what job any job seekers accept, baseball is ready to continue its growth. From what I have gathered to this point, the Baseball Winter Meetings will hopefully provide the first of many steps towards a career in the sport for many.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Two

Sunday, December 7th, 2008
So the honeymoon is over for me today after a day of reality checks and disappointment. For nine hours today, myself and somewhere in the area of five-hundred other job seekers spent time listening to some of the greatest minds in Minor League Baseball talk about the barriers of entry to the business of baseball. What was so disappointing to me was that many of the people talking this afternoon were explaining the barriers to entry to the sport, which I suppose might have helped some people, but I am in Las Vegas because I am trying my hardest to break into a sport that is incredibly difficult to enter – I assumed the risk before I came here and there is not a whole lot that can deter me from my mission. I imagine that most of the other people here this week are also in the same position. At one point, I decided to ask one of the high ranking officials in Minor League Baseball to give the audience a sales pitch as to why we should want to work in Minor League Baseball because at that point, no one had mentioned it. The response that was given was an excellent one – that despite the lack of compensation, the entry level positions are an opportunity to show ourselves to baseball and grow into the executive positions. Even though the majority of the PBEO Business of Baseball Workshop was spent talking about the gruesome details of entry into the sport, this was a silver lining to that event.

The next stage of the evening was the first night with the PBEO job fair, where I waited patiently to look at over 280 job postings with the other five-hundred people. This process proved to be a little disturbing as the job postings included between 15-20 jobs or internships in Major League Baseball. The remaining jobs that were posted were in the minors. With my experience in Tampa Bay and Atlanta, I chose to apply to the major league teams this evening, though I will look much closer at the minor league positions tomorrow. The following are the jobs that I have applied for as of this evening:

Video Scouting Intern, Baseball Info Solutions (Coplay, PA)
Extended Catch Program, Pittsburgh Pirates
Intern, Texas League
Intern, Houston Astros
Video Scouting Assistant, Detroit Tigers
Marketing Trainee, Atlanta Braves
Inside Sales Representative, San Francisco Giants
Clubhouse Assistant, Binghamton Mets
Clubhouse Assistant, Sarasota Reds
Corporate Partnerships Account Executive, Pittsburgh Pirates
Inside Sales Representative, Texas Rangers
Inside Sales Representative, Florida Marlins
Inside Sales Representative, Portland Beavers
Inside Sales Representative, Pittsburgh Pirates
Media Relations Intern, Houston Astros
Intern, Las Vegas 51’s

The most disappointing part to the day however besides the lack of available positions in Major League Baseball was that I learned that the major league and minor league versions of the Baseball Winter Meetings are occurring in different locations. Major League Baseball is being pent up in the Bellagio – perhaps the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen – while the minor league version of the meetings is happening in the Hilton. The distance between the two hotels is 2.5 miles, which will make for an uncomfortable and long day tomorrow and the next, but if I have to be at the Bellagio to get noticed, that is exactly what will happen.

Here’s to hoping that Monday will deal job seekers a new hand.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day One

Saturday, December 6th, 2008
As the sun rose to show itself through the frigid central New York air, I was perched up in the sky looking out onto a new day. It could not have been more appropriate as I finish my career at Ithaca College and am embarking on my journey to find a job at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The trip itself was quite the journey – waking up at 5:00 AM to catch my flight from Ithaca to Newark, and then picking up three hours from Newark to Las Vegas. Baseball never ceases to amaze me with its ability to bring complete strangers together. On the flight from Newark to Las Vegas, I pulled out the Baseball America 2008 handbook to take a quick look and the guy sitting next to me immediately started to talk me up about the Baseball Winter Meetings and I found a person that was in the exact situation that I am in, looking for a job. If that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, when we stood up to get off the plane, my new acquaintance recognized that the person sitting in front of us was a long-time Yankee writer. Yes, I was immediately convinced that coming to the Winter Meetings was the right move for me.

While looking out at the millions of flashing bulbs from my 7th floor room, I have been thinking about what other amazing things are in store with the coming days at the 2008 meetings. What I do know is that all of the hard work and the planning to get to where I am is an incredibly rewarding feeling – only to be matched by getting the job that I have been working towards over the past half-decade.