This past Saturday, Bradley Ankrom and Jason Collette hosted the first Baseball Prospectus ballpark event at Tropicana Field. The special guests were Baseball Director Erik Neander and Assistant Scouting Director Rob Metzler.
The group gathered in the private Bar 410 area in the left field bleachers while the Rays and A's took batting practice and asked many probing questions of the panel. Guests asked questions about what the Rays saw in signing Fernando Rodney ("cheap price") and what they have done to fix him, the aggressive shifting of the defense, as well as how operations and skills are handled at the minor league level. Both Metzler and Neander were quite candid with their responses, moreso than one would hear in any radio or television interview in the Tampa Bay area where fans have grown accustomed to very vague responses from team personnel. Both guests were even kind enough to hang around after the scheduled session time to talk one on one with a few guests that had extra questions.
The Rays gave us a very nice block of seats for the game and everyone had a good time teasing Bartolo Colon, watching the Rays hit three home runs, and watch Jonny Gomes twice break the hearts of the hometown fans with a fantastic catch to prevent an extra base hit and then hit a solo home run to put the A's ahead for good in the 13th inning. It was great to meet so many Baseball Prospectus readers, especially those who were repeat visitors from events in previous years. Several people told me that he question and answer time with the special guests and the socializing with the other readers during the game were equally enjoyable experiences. I could not agree more and I am looking forward to doing it again with readers in Houston on August 11th.