December 19, 2012
The Strange Sights of the Winter Meetings Trade Show
In the spirit of the Winter Meetings Trade Show, which took place in a huge room right below the media workroom in the Gaylord Opryland, here is some quantity over quality, a partial list of things for sale or rent or perusal:
Foul pole banners, fence mesh, outfield signage, “oversized backlits”: things you don’t see but which are performing vital functions both promotional and utilitarian. What you come away with is the suddenly strong sense that much of the baseball experience is dictated by objects and phenomena that you don’t even notice.
Trash cans, benches, stadium seating: things you would think teams would just order from big industrial suppliers but which in fact are specially designed, painted, and logoed for the particular aesthetics and needs of individual ballparks.
Radar guns, pitching cages with radar guns, batting cages: things originally designed for ballplayer use that have crossed over into fan fun. Attendees of the Winter Meetings Trade Show could be seen in shirt and tie, taking turns throwing pitches in the cage, averaging around 70 mph. Usually with a beer in the non-throwing hand.
Scoreboards, video boards, video graphics: an eye-opening reminder that these are perhaps the most prominent things at ballparks—other than all that grass. (In poorly attended ballparks, it’s empty seats as well, and you can buy those, too, as noted above.) One of the companies represented was called Click Effects, and I was hoping that they were offering some sort of ingenious marriage of PITCHf/x and the research of former BP author James Click, who is now with the Tampa Bay Rays. But no: “Click Effects is a highly regarded line of powerful, yet extremely dependable, cost-effective, operator-friendly, digital content delivery systems, designed to meet the stringent demands of the live sports and broadcast presentation environments. Regardless of your needs, from video playback, to replay, to data delivery, to graphic generation, to audio and more, there is a reliable Click Effects system specifically engineered to satisfy your requirements and to meet your high expectations for quality and value!” Seems to be working, judging from the client list.
A baseball “renewing” machine: this appeared to be Ben Lindbergh’s favorite. You take a dirty ball, throw it in the machine—presto!—out comes a shiny white ball. Call me when they make one with a jaw-shaped mold that I can put my teeth in. On second thought, don’t: as my pal Jim asked, with that mischievous smile of his, when I told him about it, “How much less does the ball weigh when it comes out of the machine?”