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Pitch is king at Winter Meetings

In more ways than one, salesmanship is center stage in Florida
December 8, 2010
It's a truism in baseball that you can't get enough pitching, and that's certainly the case at the sport's Winter Meetings.

So much of the activity at the Meetings revolves around the art of the pitch. From weary job seekers with loosened ties to brightly smiling Trade Show vendors to slickly dressed agents milling around the hotel lobby, it seems that nearly everyone has some sort of service to offer.

And that service can be just about anything related to the national pastime.

Right-hander for hire

While much of the news to come from the Winter Meetings revolves around trades and free agent signings, the players themselves are rarely seen. But right-handed free agent Scot Drucker, most recently a member of the Detroit Tigers, decided to take matters into his own hands.

"I'm here to meet new friends and catch up with old friends," explained Drucker, speaking from the networking mecca that doubles as the lobby of the Disney Dolphin Resort. "I've run into a lot of scouts and agents, but players don't usually come to the Meetings. It's an oddity. My agent even called me out on it, that I was here and dressed professionally."
But Drucker, who was recently profiled on, feels there are distinct advantages to being at the Meetings.

"I want to show teams that I'm still playing, and that I'd like to get a job, being a free agent," he said. "Also, I want to show teams that when I'm done playing I'd like to stay involved with baseball."

So where will Drucker end up in 2011?

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said, laughing. "My agent is here working his tail off. He tried to get me a job in Venezuela... That's up in the air. All of these [Winter] Leagues have playoffs coming up, and some of the players that have been there all season might be leaving. Hopefully I can fill a void there, get some innings under my belt and maybe help my cause of getting signed for next season."

Why not, right?

"Maybe with all this Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee talk, Scot Drucker can get signed this week too, here in Orlando," he said. "If I have a uniform on [in 2011], I'll be a happy camper."

Fire walk with Ted

As mentioned in Tuesday's Trade Show article, stuntman Ted Batchelor is in Orlando in order to pitch his very unique promotional idea -- he runs the bases while on fire. Batchelor did just this following a Savannah Sand Gnats game last season, and now he's trying to get booked at stadiums nationwide.

"[Savannah] went fantastic," said Batchelor, who holds the Guinness World Record for Longest Full Body Burn Without Supplied Oxygen. "For the first time ever, somebody ran the bases on fire intentionally. Maybe someone had done it unintentionally. But the fans loved it, and it was a great experience for everyone involved."

Indeed, the success Batchelor had in Savannah is what inspired him to rent out a booth at the Trade Show.

"The attention we received from the national media really propelled it and gave it credence," he said. "Plus the testimony from the Sand Gnats helps. They explain how nicely it went and how professional it was."

And despite the dangers involved, Batchelor said he's up for as many engagements as he can get.

"I'm 52 years old, but I still have the wheels to do this," he said. "I may not be the fastest, but I will be the most exciting, that's for sure."

And to paraphrase an old saying: "Behind every man on fire, there's a woman with a torch." In this case that woman is Batchelor's wife, Debby, who steadfastly supports her husband's idiosyncratic incendiary endeavors.

"If we ever come to a time when [lighting him on fire] doesn't stress me out, then it will be time to finally stop doing this," she said.

Put him on the "Will Call" list

Of course, the largest number of Winter Meeting job seekers can be found at the annual PBEO Job Fair. Hundreds of (mostly) young professional baseball aspirants are here in Orlando hoping to land an interview and, just maybe, employment.

One of the many suit-wearing seekers to be found in the hallways outside the Job Fair's massive interview room was Jacob Wilkins. A 2009 Penn State graduate, Wilkins attended last year's Job Fair and eventually landed a broadcasting job with the Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley Renegades.

Wilkins is looking to work at a higher level in 2011, with a focus on play-by-play, media relations and multimedia opportunities. But he takes the long view when it comes to his Job Fair expectations.

"I'm using this as an opportunity to look for the next step, but also so I can continue to build relationships," he said. "There's such a variety of people here, which means opportunities to make contacts with those doing work you didn't even know existed.

"To get [job] offers is a nice feeling, but you never know what's going to come out of it," he continued. "The ultimate goal is a broadcasting job, but really you just want to keep on building relationships and see where it leads to."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for