From agents to umpires, executives to entrepreneurs, the entirety of the baseball industry will come together in Orlando next week for the annual Winter Meetings. However, one of the largest subsets of attendees is comprised of those who have no title attached to their names.
These would be the job seekers, who are traveling to Orlando in order to attend the annual Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities Job Fair. Three hundred thirty-three individuals have pre-registered for the event, eager for the opportunity to land one of the 323 jobs that have been posted. (Both of these numbers will increase as on-site registration is available and teams are able to add additional job postings while attending the Meetings).
So what's it like to attend the Winter Meetings in this capacity? What motivates these (mostly) young go-getters to spend the time and money necessary to make their baseball dreams a potential reality? What do they hope to get out of the experience?
In order to answer these questions, I have once again recruited four Job Fair attendees to chronicle their experiences (read the 2012 edition). These accounts will be updated daily on MiLB.com and Ben's Biz Blog, so check in early and often to see how their weeks are progressing. But first things first -- let's get to know the job seekers.
Meredith Perri (@MeredithPerri)
School: Senior, Boston University
Hometown: Washingtonville, N.Y.
Prior sports industry experience: Although I have not held a paid position in the sports industry, I have interned with SportsNet New York and the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League. During the summer of 2012, I worked in the digital media department at SNY, where I helped in a redesign of the company's blog network and covered the Mets for MetsBlog.com. Then during the summer of 2013, I worked as an editor and field reporter in Falmouth. While with the team, I created and edited CommodoresBlog.com and produced interactive graphics, videos and features.
Why you want to work in baseball: When I was barely a year old, I went to my first Minor League Baseball game. I grew up in the kind of household where, if it was baseball season, the game was on and everyone was watching it. By the time I reached middle school, I realized that I could combine my passion for writing and finding unique stories with my knowledge of baseball.
One random fact: I am a classically trained pianist. When I was 5 years old, I began taking lessons. I kept taking those lessons throughout high school, despite my instructors' fears that I would break my fingers playing volleyball and softball. Lucky for them, I waited until a year after I participated in my last competition before I broke my thumb.
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Kasey Decker (@KDSmoove)
School: Graduated from the University of Georgia in 2010.
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
Prior sports industry experience: I went to the 2010 Winter Meetings -- also in Orlando, so I'm not even getting a change of scenery! -- and accepted a Community Relations position with the Visalia Rawhide. In 2011, I moved up to the Midland RockHounds, and most recently I completed the 2013 Atlanta Braves Trainee program.
Why you want to work in baseball: I want to continue to work in the world of baseball because I love the sport, the atmosphere and it allows me to combine all of my passions into one. Baseball provides an incredibly unique vehicle to make a difference in the community and the lives of those in it. Making the world a better place for those around me is my ultimate passion.
One random fact: I have absolutely no inside voice.
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School: Junior at Lynn University, located in Boca Raton, Fla.
Hometown: Hong Kong
Sports Industry Experience: I've never worked for a professional sports team, but I currently play on the Lynn University baseball team.
Why you want to work in baseball: I don't want to work in baseball because it's "fun" or because I'm scared that I'll be bored with my life if I end up working a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle. I want to work in baseball because many behind-the-scene aspects of the game are overlooked, and questions need to be answered.
Sabermetrics were first introduced in the 1960s but were immediately disregarded by every team. Today, there is a never-ending war between analytical evaluation and traditional scouting. Although some teams are better at integrating the two then others, will there be a day where the two can work hand-in-hand effectively and every team agrees on how to use the two correctly?
I know that this question will not be answered the second I get hired by a professional team. I could be working years before I become a major contributing part of a ballclub. I'm fine with that. But the Job Fair will be the beginning of my journey. I'm not doing this for fun. This is business.
One random fact: I was actually born and raised in Hong Kong, and even though Hong Kong is [a special administrative region of] China, the Japanese dominate the baseball landscape. I spent 16 hours a weekend playing baseball the "Japanese Way" (from 11 to 14 years old). I'm not sure if you've seen the movie Mr. Baseball, but the way they interpret manners, teamwork and skills training in Japan is 99 percent correct. If we were doing infield practice and the third basemen had to dive to his left to catch the ball as a part of the drill, that third basemen had to continue to dive to his left until he fielded the ball cleanly and threw to first. Sometimes this could take up to 20 tries! We would run after games if we didn't cheer loud enough for our pitchers. It truly is a team sport, and I learned just as much about conducting myself off the field as I did on it. There is no "individual" aspect on the team -- imagine how that would go over in the United States! I know how it feels to be in an uncomfortable environment, where you really aren't on the same page as everyone else. For four years of my life, I played baseball with 15 other kids that didn't speak a lick of English. We simply spoke baseball.
(Editor's note: For anyone interested in the culture of Japanese baseball, You Gotta Have Wa is a must-read.)
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Ian Fontenot (@IanFonteneaux)
School: Graduated from LSU in December 2013
Birthplace: Port Barre, La.
Prior sports industry experience: During my time in Baton Rouge, I worked for Athletic Facilities Management for almost three years, giving tours of Tiger Stadium, transporting student athletes and performing many other miscellaneous tasks (such as stepping on every single seat in Tiger Stadium after each home game with the help of only one other person for a quality assurance test). As I paid my way through school, I worked two jobs during part of my college tenure. One of those side jobs was as a sports writer for The Daily Reveille, our award-winning student newspaper. I covered tennis and sports recruiting, which earned me second place, Multimedia Sports Story of the Year, from the Associated Collegiate Press. This past summer, I moved across the country to work with the Vermont Lake Monsters as their marketing and communications intern. In Vermont, I did everything from handling social media accounts to bringing players to/from the airport and being the Tooth Fairy for on-field promotions.
Why you want to work in baseball: For as long as I can remember, baseball has been a huge part of my life. In high school, I thought I would have the chance to play college ball at a smaller school in Louisiana, but a series of shoulder injuries cut that dream short. But from my very first day at LSU, I knew baseball is where I wanted to end up. I didn't always know what I wanted to do in the industry, but I knew it's what I was meant to be doing. The long hours never bother me in the least when I love what I'm around. My summer in Vermont definitely reinforced that feeling.
One random fact: I once wore nothing but a kilt and body paint in chilly 40-degree weather for an Olympic U.S. women's soccer match in Glasgow, Scotland.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.