Even though the Winter Meetings technically extended until today, you could have sworn that it was already over. Since the only event happening is the Rule 5 Draft and it's not the most exciting thing in the world, most people have little incentive to stick around.
Just as a refresher, the Rule 5 Draft exists so teams can only stockpile a limited amount of talent. Every player on a 40-man roster is safe, and everyone else in a team's minor league system can be selected. The selecting team pays $50,000 and must keep that player on the major league roster for the entire season, though teams will often pull some shenanigans and put that guy on the disabled list with a phantom injury as the DL still adds major-league service time. If the team decides they no longer want that player, he gets sent back to his original club in exchange for $25,000. It sometimes can be risky using up a valuable roster spot on a player that has plenty of talent but lacks polish, but can be worthwhile if your team is smart about it. The most notable Rule 5 draftee Twins fans should know is Johan Santana, but some other names off the top of my head that were once Rule 5 guys were R.A. Dickey (selected by the Mariners from the Twins the year before he officially saw the bigs with the Twins) and Ender Inciarte (a Ben Revere-type player that was part of the Shelby Miller trade a few days ago).
I decided to check out the Rule 5 Draft and although I've been at the Opryland for four days now, I still have no clue where anything is located. Every wing has a name, but the problem is that I've virtually ignored all of them. The draft was being held in the Delta ballroom, so I beelined to where I thought that was located. Except, well, it wasn't. Eventually I found a map and it turned out that the ballroom I was attempting to find was actually in the same wing I entered the hotel. Not a good start.
Because of my mistake, I missed the entire major league portion of the draft. However, I did stick around for a good chunk of the Triple-A phase. It's pretty much the same as the major league phase but these guys are being selected off Double-A rosters to be, well, placed onto a Triple-A roster.
Getting into the ballroom was not an issue. I tweeted that I "sneaked" into the draft, but really I was able to walk right in. Up at the front was a small stage where the names were being officially announced. Then there were multiple rows of long tables where the team's representatives sat, with microphone stands set up incrementally between the tables for the teams to announce their selections. Then there was a rope blocking off more tables in the center which were occupied by the media. Finally, one last rope separated the general seating for all other people. Instead of grabbing a seat, I chose to stand.
Let me tell you something. Unless you're Seth Stohs, do not attend the Rule 5 Draft. Or, don't attend the minor league portion. I was there for 20 minutes and I didn't recognize a single name that was read, and once the second round started I bowed out. I didn't have much of anything to do today, but I was certain I could find something better than hearing about how some Double-A shortstop from the Nationals was now going to the Angels.
After I left the draft, I had no other plans. Everyone cleared out so the Opryland is actually pretty quiet right now. Oh sure, there's still the ambient Mall of America-like noise that drowns out half of your conversations, but it's definitely emptier than the past three days.
I retreated back to my hotel room and figured out that binge-watching the 2010 season of Big Brother was my best way to kill the rest of the day. Well, won't you know it but I get a text from one last major league team, asking if I was in the Cascades wing of the Opryland.
Of course I'm nowhere near it (I'm at least a mile away!) but I respond that I'll be over quickly. I throw on my suit, break just about every driving law known to man, and get over to the Cascades as fast as I possibly could.
It turns out that this guy is talking to someone I've seen all week. He's got connections with my Inside Edge coworkers, after all, so it's not too surprising that I've ran into him constantly. That one ends up disappearing and them I'm left alone with the representative from the major league club.
I wasn't kidding when I said that meetings can occur anywhere. In this case, we were standing just feet from some escalators. It really wasn't an interview, as he admitted that he didn't have much time, but he was more focused on just getting to meet me in person. It was here that my meeting from yesterday started to click. If you remember, that guy was supposed to ask me some unusual questions but never did. This guy was similar, he asked some really basic questions but wasn't looking for anything in-depth. He eventually explained that with his schedule, he just wanted to get to know me a little bit, and that the real interview would be conducted over the phone within the next week. I suppose that's why this whole week was dubbed the "Winter Meetings" and not the "Winter Interviews." The main piece of advice I was given was that I was supposed to make connections. Those guys weren't joking, you really do spend your whole week making connections rather than conducting actual interviews.
My meeting concluded and I jetted back to my hotel room like the recluse I am. This would end up being the last significant event that would happen to me while I was here in Nashville. Overall, it wasn't fully the experience that I expected. I thought I would be busy constantly, trying to talk to people and peddle my trade to the masses. Instead, it was a lot of waiting and hanging out in my hotel room. Overall, I do feel that one lead I have is solid and has a better than 50% chance of coming to fruition, while a couple others are a little more iffy but I'm still confident I'll be moving on to the next stage. After a week of patience, it's on to another month or two of more patience as I'll just need to wait for these teams and networks to come calling.
If I were to give advice to anyone looking to attend the Winter Meetings in the future, it's this. Make your connections beforehand. It's so much easier to have meetings set up than to luck into finding someone worthwhile and getting something planned on the fly. Second, make sure you've got something to pass the time. Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, other apps that don't alliterate, whatever, you're going to need it. And finally, you're on call at literally any time of day. I had a meeting that was set up at 11:30 pm, another friend had one conducted at 12:30 am. The teams have busy schedules, and if they want to meet, you're the only one in the relationship with something to lose. You've got to bend over backwards to get what you want, because if you're not willing to take what they're offering, there's likely 10 other people that would take that opportunity in a heartbeat.
I'll keep you all posted if anything new pops up over the next few months. At worst, I'll be returning to Inside Edge for another year, which really is nothing bad at all since I loved working there last summer. At best, I'll be on a flight to California, Florida, or New York for spring training or a network position come March.