Thursday, December 11, 2008

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.

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