Next week, hundreds of free agents will descend upon the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego. They think they have what it takes; all they need is for a team to give them a shot.
This particular subset of baseball free agents will be operating in near-total obscurity, however. Whether they succeed or fail in their Winter Meetings objective, the media hordes congregated in the lobby of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel will pay them no mind.
They are the job seekers.
The annual PBEO (Professional Baseball Employment Opportunity) Job Fair, a key component of the Winter Meetings, takes place from Sunday through Wednesday. Last year's edition attracted more than 500 attendees, who jockeyed for 502 jobs and internships posted by 129 organizations. Organizers expect those numbers to increase in 2014.
So what is it like to attend the Winter Meetings in a job-seeking capacity? In order to illuminate this oft-overlooked perspective, I have, for the third consecutive season, recruited four Job Fair attendees to write about their experiences. Their accounts will be updated daily on MiLB.com and Ben's Biz Blog, beginning on Monday. But, first things first, let's get to know a little bit about each of them.
• Where are they now? Updates from the 2012 and 2013 job seekers
Darius Thigpen (@thig08)
School: Graduated from (the) Ohio State University in 2014
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Prior sports industry experience: While attending OSU, I called 13 sports for Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio. I worked as a broadcast intern for the Columbus Clippers this summer and currently work as a studio host for IMG College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Why he wants to work in baseball: Because I love the game. I played a bit in high school, though it was never my best sport. I can appreciate the hard work and the grind it takes to be a professional baseball player.
One random fact: I played baseball, not basketball, in high school. I was able to dunk, yet I never hit a home run. Don't ask me to dunk now, though. I promise that it will end well for no one.
Julie Brady (@WinterNBaseball)
School: Graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014
Hometown: Glenview, Illinois
Prior sports industry experience: I spent this summer interning for the Kane County Cougars, the best team in professional baseball in 2014. It was a fantastic experience -- it's hard not to love a job when your team never loses at home, and where you're surrounded by people who love baseball as much as you do. In addition to this, I spent two summers in college working as a guest service representative for the Chicago White Sox, a position that taught me that working in baseball involves a little bit more than getting paid to stand around and watch the game. I also spent one summer working at a Champaign Park District pool, but we don't talk about that.
Why she wants to work in baseball: I love the game. I can't imagine ever pulling up to a stadium and thinking, "Ugh, another day at the ballpark." It's something that I will never tire of. Really, my goal is to be the next Bill Veeck. My personal mission statement is that I want people to love coming out to the park as much as I do. I want to make people love baseball. I want to show them something they'll talk about for years. And I want to have fun doing it. Since I was 16, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.
One random fact: In college, I was extremely active in the comedy scene (long-form improv, short-form improv, sketch and musical). Just before my senior year, my friends and I founded our own group, which I led, and built it up from total obscurity and seven members to a respected group of 20 or so that is now invited to college improv festivals across the Midwest. It's my proudest accomplishment, and I hope that, 10 years from now, when the first members of the Phoenix Improv Company start getting famous, they'll remember me fondly!
Sean Banks (@sbanks_)
School: Senior at University of Evansville
Hometown: Clarksville, Indiana
Prior sports industry experience: I just completed my first summer working as an operations intern for the Evansville Otters, who are a part of the independent Frontier League.
Why he wants to work in baseball: The game has given me so much. I played every year and season of my life until college and started working in baseball the summer after my freshman year at the University of Evansville. I enjoyed being the "man behind the screen," to bring a sport that I love so much to the people in my community.
One random fact: I once tweeted to Eduardo Perez during a segment of Baseball Tonight and watched the analysts discuss my question on live television -- my crowning achievement.
Katie Carlson (@katiescarlson)
School: Senior at Stanford University
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Prior sports industry experience: Media Relations Postseason Intern, SF Giants (2014 postseason); Intern, Beverly Hills Sports Council (Summer 2014); Baseball Operations/Player Development Intern, Stanford University Varsity Baseball (4 years); Intern, Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, Cape Cod Baseball League (Summers 2012 & 2013)
Why she wants to work in baseball: Baseball has been my passion since I was 9 years old, when my Dad started taking me to games and taught me how to keep score. When I was in high school, I realized that I wanted to turn my passion into something more, and I even wrote my essay to get into Stanford about the impact baseball has had on my life and my dreams of a career in the baseball industry. Working primarily with college players over the past four years, I realized that analyzing players for the [First-Year Player] Draft and helping players reach their Major League goals through player development is what I find most exciting about baseball. My goal is to have a career in baseball operations. Besides all of the analysis that goes into creating a winning ballclub, I also love the impact that a team can have on a fan base and even an entire city.
One random fact: I learned how to ride a unicycle when I was in third-grade PE class.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.