Hello everyone. Now, I'd like to pretend that Jesse sent me to Nashville on some super-important Twinkie Town recon mission, gathering rumors and stories that only the insiders can dig up. However, I'm actually attending the Winter Meetings by my own choice, and admittedly, the fact I'm down here was a bit of a spontaneous decision.
You see, some of you may already know that I went to school to be a math teacher and that I've spent the first three years of my post-graduate life teaching high school math. You may also know that I worked at Inside Edge this summer, a baseball company that can be found in Bloomington.
I've been juggling these two paths for a while now and after constant arguments from friends that I was pursuing the wrong career, it was a talk from a former administrator that made me begin my transition. Balancing Inside Edge and teaching was tough in the spring and it was clearly affecting my work, so when I was let go the administrator told me that I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
While I work as a substitute teacher this fall and into winter, I'm finally admitting that education isn't my calling and that I need to pursue a career in baseball. Thus, the decision was made just last week that I would head down to Nashville to attend the 2015 MLB Winter Meetings.
In fact, I'm already in Tennessee. Thanks to my indecisiveness, I never bought a plane ticket so I drove all the way down here. I nearly didn't get a hotel room because I committed so late. But, I'm here now and I'm all ready to begin a life anew. My plan is to hopefully post every evening while I'm here (though there are no guarantees) about what goes on at the Winter Meetings, what I'm seeing, and how one navigates this giant swarm of major league transaction rumors, job opportunities, and famous faces as seen on TV.
I left from home on Saturday evening. It's nearly a 13-hour drive from Minneapolis to Nashville, but it was twofold why I broke up my trek into two parts. First, because I didn't want to drive all day Sunday and then be physically exhausted on Monday. But secondly, because of a small part-time writing job I took after my first false-start into thinking my temporary teaching position was over, I had to write some NCAA basketball recaps both Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Thus, I had a small 21-hour window to drive to Nashville and get a reasonable amount of sleep. My wife and I planned out an attack on where I would stop for rest on Saturday evening. We started on the halfway point of St. Louis, but I decided I'd rather spend more time driving during daylight and I eventually settled on Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Driving through Iowa isn't fun. Not necessarily because it's flat; really, it's similar to Minnesota. No, it's more that I was driving in pitch blackness for most of the trip. It was like being around a dementor, getting your soul slowly sucked out of you as you raced along at 75 MPH. At one point I caught myself looking at the clock three times in 10 minutes when I was still two hours away from Mount Pleasant. I can't recall the last time I was so happy to see a little city like Cedar Rapids or Waterloo, as the lights rejuvenated me every time. However, it was short-lived as just 15 minutes later, it was back into the eternal darkness, getting my soul sucked out once again. Should have packed some chocolate, I guess.
Despite my dramatics, I made it just fine to Mount Pleasant where I caught six hours of sleep before leaving again around 7 am Sunday morning. Oddly, this drive was much easier for me even though it was two hours longer. Perhaps it was from having daylight on my side. Maybe it's because I knew I was getting close. Who knows.
I arrived in Nashville and after getting my basketball recaps finished, I set out to the Gaylord Opryland to scout out these Winter Meetings. I have a fear of uncertainty and if I could get that out of the way, tomorrow when the Meetings officially started would go much more smoothly.
As I approached, I can easily tell that the hotel is massive as it also contains a convention center. I suppose if you're hosting something like the Winter Meetings, you better have the space to house everything you need. My wonderment was quickly dashed, however, as I realized I had to solve the Rubik's Cube that was my parking situation. Valet parking? I'm not that fancy. Pay $24 for parking reasonably close? There's no way I'm dumping $96 this week just so I can get close. Panic started setting in as I realized I might have driven 870 miles only to be halted just 1000 feet from the gateway to my future. This can't happen.
I turned around and started driving around the outside of the complex. Surely there had to be a better solution than paying the equivalent of a nice steak just to do business. Luckily for me, it took no longer than five minutes to discover that there was a mall on the far side of the hotel. I also noticed a "Gaylord Opryland Events Center" and knew I had found what I needed, so I parked and started walking toward the building.
Well, that worked out great until I approached and saw that I was surrounded by families in a winter wonderland. There was an ice skating rink. Snowmen. A miniature tubing hill. Worst of all, there was no baseball to be found. Looks like I struck out again, pun intended.
In spite of my struggles, I knew I had to figure this puzzle out, so I continued walking past the Event Center and towards the hotel. As I walked, I kept joining more and more families. What's going on here? Surely those teenage girls aren't competing with me to get a baseball job as well, are they?
I followed the vacationers into the hotel and my confusion just got worse with every step. I entered into some sort of Camp Snoopy/Christmas mix if all the amusement rides were replaced with hotel rooms and Christmas lights. I was still surrounded by families and there was a low hum as if I were in a mall. Surely this isn't where the Winter Meetings are being held?
I don't belong here, I thought. No seriously, I literally don't belong here. I'm not staying in this hotel. I'm in the Days Inn about a mile away. Even though I was disoriented by all the Christmas decorations and the vibe that the Pepsi Ripsaw Roller Coaster would go thundering past any second, I chuckled at my dumb joke and pressed on. I took a right (because then you can never go wrong) and continued on my way.
Hope suddenly appeared just a few seconds later. A guy around my age in a suit walked past with a lanyard on. Then another. There was a woman with the same lanyard. Alright, some clues that something was going on here! This was then followed by the Holy Grail of my attendance up to this point, a kiosk with a schedule of events for the 2015 MLB Winter Meetings.
I labeled this post "Day 0" because although the Winter Meetings officially start on Monday, there were a few events going on today, namely the job fair. I decided it would be worthwhile to find where that was located so I followed the arrows upstairs to the ballroom.
On my way, I happened to pass seemingly a hundred people in suits and lanyards. Then there was Peter Gammons, whom I nearly interrupted from his conversation before realizing that it would come off as incredibly rude. Just a few steps beyond him, I became overjoyed as I happened to run into two of my coworkers from Inside Edge this past summer.
After exchanging our greetings, I had to ask about the lanyards and why I didn't know about acquiring one before I arrived. Well, as one guy said, it was actually a good thing I was lacking one. It was explained to me, "(Those people) all just paid a bunch of money to be told that they're competing for three jobs." With that comment, I was finally put at ease. Look, I'm all for getting a job, even an internship here in Nashville, but if I have to shell out more money beyond buying a meal or getting a drink while chatting up an MLB representative, I'm not going to bother.
My two coworkers ended up giving me a brief tour of the hotel as they had already been there all day, including a prime location for conducting interviews. I've already snagged three (more on that in a later post) so knowing where the Meetings were held, where to go inside the hotel, and that lacking a lanyard wasn't a big deal at all, I was able to return to my cheap yet satisfying room at the Days Inn just down the road, where now I sit typing this post.
Tomorrow my plan is to hit up the job fair, orient myself a little more with the hotel, hopefully make some connections with some people I've been told to find, but most of all to have a great time. I've heard this isn't the most pleasant part of starting a career within baseball, but I'll just have to see if that's true on my own.