The annual Baseball Winter Meetings kick off this weekend at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. While the location may be new -- the last time the Winter Meetings were held in the Washington, D.C., area was 1958 -- the event itself follows a familiar pattern.
What follows is an overview of the Winter Meetings experience as it relates to the day-to-day goings-on of those working in the world of Minor League Baseball.
Sunday: This is, largely, a travel day. But for each of the past two years, the Winter Meetings Banquet has been held Sunday evening (it previously took place Thursday, after most attendees had left). The banquet includes the crowning of the "King of Baseball," an individual who has spent his life working in the Minor Leagues. This year's King is David G. Elmore, who founded the Elmore Sports Group in 1969 and owns six Minor League teams.
A particular highlight of the 2014 banquet was legendary Arkansas Travelers owner Bill Valentine receiving the honor (he died the following April). Perhaps the most memorable moment of last year's event was all-time Minor League home run king Mike Hessman receiving the Career Achievement Award. Visibly overcome with emotion, Hessman gave a poignant speech in accepting the honor.
The PBEO Job Fair also kicks off Sunday with an all-day "Business of Baseball" workshop that explains the realities of working in the sport and what teams are looking for in their employees.
Monday: The first full day of the Meetings is, by a wide margin, the one with the most industry-wide programmed events. The Bob Freitas Business Seminar takes place throughout the day, offering a variety of presentations related to all aspects of working in the Minor Leagues. In the past, this has included topics such as ballpark drone usage, maximizing theme jersey nights and using a team's history to strengthen the brand.
At 11 a.m., the entire industry gathers in a ballroom for the Opening Session. This hour-long event is highlighted by Minor League president Pat O'Conner's speech, which functions as a sort of State of the Union. O'Conner typically accentuates recent industry successes as well as introducing (or reaffirming the importance of) initiatives dedicated to strengthening Minor League Baseball in the long term. Last year, O'Conner addressed myriad ballpark safety issues, lauded ongoing technological developments and praised Brewers prospect David Denson for coming out as the Minor Leagues' first openly gay active player.
The Opening Session is followed by an Awards Luncheon, honoring teams, players and executives. In the evening, the Trade Show celebrates its "opening night" as attendees take their initial strolls among the vast array of baseball-related products and services.
Tuesday: The Trade Show is in full swing, and many attendees spend a considerable portion of the day there. One can book a touring act, check out new licensed theme jerseys, sample concession items, order a new bounce house… the list goes on and on. In writing about the Trade Show, MiLB.com has tended to focus on some of the more unique vendors. In recent years these have included non-tobacco herbal snuff, the Bucket Ruckus performing group, baseball dryers and the "Peep No-More" bathroom stall occupancy indicator.
Tuesday also is the busiest day for meetings of all kinds (the Winter Meetings got the name for a reason). This year's scheduled gatherings include Appalachian League general managers, a Northwest/Pioneer League All-Star Game planning session and a Triple-A marketing meeting (to name a few). Due to the far-flung geography of the Minor Leagues, the Winter Meetings represent a rare chance to gather in one place.
Many Major League organizations host their "affiliate dinners" on Tuesday, with the invitation lists featuring team employees from all affiliates (the Phillies' dinner would include employees of Lehigh Valley, Reading, Clearwater, Lakewood and Williamsport, for example).
Wednesday: For many, Wednesday is the final full day of the Winter Meetings. For those registered with the PBEO Job Fair, it's a particularly stressful time as the hope and promise of Monday morning have given way to anxiety and uncertainty. Will any new jobs be posted at the last moment? Will a team reach out for a second interview? Should one accept an offer that he or she has received or hold out hope for another, more desirable one? It's a crapshoot, but the Job Fair nonetheless is an unparalleled opportunity for those wishing to break into the world of professional baseball. In recent years, MiLB.com has recruited job seekers to chronicle their experiences as they navigate a life experience that is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Meet last year's group of Job Seeker Journal writers here.
For those already working in Minor League Baseball, the day (and the Meetings as a whole) ends with the Gala. This is, essentially, a three-hour schmooze-fest with copious hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. This year's Gala is being held at Nationals Park; hopefully, it will be as visually enticing as the 2014 event at San Diego's Petco Park.