As I have done in the past, I chronicled what it was like for me as an agent at this year’s winter meetings. It was without a doubt the best winter meetings experience I’ve had, for various reasons. Some names and other details omitted for what should be obvious reasons
Sunday, 6 a.m.: Leave for airport. Itinerary includes stopover in North Carolina; at airport, pick up my favorite BBQ in the country. (Two orders; one for hotel.)
Pedro Gomez from ESPN is on my flight, so I knew it isn’t crashing. He's too good a reporter to go out that way. We land in Nashville at 2 p.m. local time. Did not plan on starting work until late at night, but I grow restless at Opryland. The venue is about a mile long. It is, for baseball people, the most hated winter meetings venue because it is impossible to run into people, and because it requires meticulous planning and scheduling to navigate. It’s my third visit here and I still get lost all the time.
7 p.m.: Run into job fair lottery winner, who has no idea who I am. Sweet kid. I explained everything, but he kind of wandered off and lost me. Two days later he emailed me, and I am still going to help him out for sure, but when opportunity knocks DO NOT WALK AWAY.
8 p.m.: Peter Gammons reports Michael Brantley out until August. Thoughts of leaving the country enter my head. I am slammed by reporters and have to refute report. Team refutes, Twitter nearly crashes, fire put out, all well in world.
9 p.m.: Talking to various members of media. Jared Diamond of WSJ is first reporter to talk to.
10 p.m.: I have an ongoing "thing" with Jim Bowden of ESPN. He has no idea who I am, despite our previous dealings, so I go and ironically get his autograph. Regrettably he did not sign it "Ralph," but did add the inscription "GM" which the quotes were definitely on the money. He was quite kind despite not knowing me. My only prank of the meetings.
11 p.m.: Meet with a team to discuss a player.
12 p.m.: Meet with a team from Japan to discuss a player.
1 a.m.: Meet with another agent/friend.
2 a.m.: Meet with a vendor.
3 a.m.: Call it a night.
DAY 2 (OFFICIAL DAY 1 OF MEETINGS)
8 a.m.: Meet intern applicants from job fair and emails.
10 a.m.: Meet with reporter.
11 a.m.: Meet with a club to discuss a player.
12 p.m.: Meet with a club to discuss a player.
1 p.m.: Meet with reporter
3 p.m.: Go to Baseball Prospectus booth, pretending not to know much about the website. The group of writers had never met me and I had taken my nametag off. I tell them my favorite BP column is the Agent’s Take column. Finally fess up. Everybody is nice.
4 p.m.: Meet with vendor before trade show.
5 p.m.: Meet with MLB employees just to talk.
6 p.m.: Trade show begins, madness ensues. Three hours of negotiations and trade show meetings.
10 p.m.: Back to my hotel for shower, day-old BBQ.
12 a.m.: Back to meetings for your basic “what’s going on” conversations with reporters.
1 a.m.: Business meeting to discuss my future.
3 a.m.: Back to hotel
DAY 3 (DAY 2 of official meetings)
7 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Total blur.
1 p.m.: Back to trade show to inform all vendors of the Asuaje development.
3 p.m.: Leave trade show; back to lobby. Talk to ball clubs for next few hours.
6 p.m.: Meet with a vendor and overhear that Dennis Haskins (AKA Mr. Belding!), who makes appearances as a featured guest at minor-league ballparks, is here. I run to his booth and we speak for hours, reciting SbTB lines, talking about his gigs. Not a more gracious man at the meetings. He emailed me later. Mr. Belding emailed me!
8 p.m.: Back to my hotel for an hour.
9 p.m.: Annnnnd back to the meetings. Talk to clubs for the next few hours.
12 a.m.: I see a group of agents talking. Mention to one of them that one of the guys in their group took a client from me, and that said client owes me $700. I know the agent and he's a good guy, but a bad fit with the player and me. I told him, in the future don’t have your lawyer call me; call me yourself or pay me. He has no idea who the player is, and didn’t even know the player was on their roster now. Big firms can be funny. Hope the player enjoys being in that mix. He mocks me for asking for $700, and I tell him I’m sorry my Facebook photo isn’t of me on a private jet.
1 a.m.: Meet with Ryan Dempster briefly to tell him the story of when I met him when I was 14. He played for Port Charlotte and was one of my first ever autographs. He couldn’t have been more kind to me; he helped me on my path in baseball without even knowing it. Told him I own his old Charleston Riverdogs jersey, and if he’d like it back it’s his. I will be sending it to him this week. Still a wonderful guy.
2 a.m.: Gossiping with reporters.
3 a.m.: Meeting with team.
3:30 a.m.: Back to hotel.
DAY 4 (DAY 3 of official meetings)
8 a.m.: Meeting with internship applicants.
9 a.m.: Trade show and four hours of vendor meetings.
1 p.m.: My client Ryan Caldwell of the Rays (and QB recruit for Vanderbilt) joins me at the trade show to show his face. Companies love him; deals ensue; he signs autographs and takes pictures until it closes down at 4 p.m. Great day for him.
2 p.m.: Two hours of team meetings.
4 p.m.: I hear that Jon Niese is traded, which might open the door for Seth Lugo to compete for an MLB spot. Another huge break for a client. Couldn’t be happier.
5 p.m.: Two hours of team meetings.
7 p.m.: Hotel.
9 p.m.: And back. Stretch run.
10 p.m.: I leave lobby to go to vendor party, meet tons of baseball people. Had a mix-up last spring with this vendor and I wanted to show my face to apologize in person. All is resolved, all is well.
11 p.m.: Lobby, meeting, catch up with friends.
1 a.m.: With Yoga guru Matt Repplinger.
2 a.m.: With high-ranking MLB official.
3 a.m.: With Bryson Asmus, last year’s winter meetings lottery winner. He’s well on his way to building his career. Amazing future.
3:30: Picked up by hotel shuttle. Not our regular driver. We nearly die twice. He missed the exit, went past it by about 60 feet, then hit reverse on the freaking highway and we almost got hit by a semi. He then got lost in a neighborhood going way over the speed limit and nearly crashed into a tree on a dead end street. Branches hit the car. Finally back to hotel at 4:02 a.m. Rule 5 draft in five hours, so I stay up watching Snatch. Best Guy Ritchie movie. Best Jason Statham movie.
9 a.m.: Rule 5 draft. Touching base with people I missed all week.
11 a.m.: Rule 5 ends. None of my clients picked this year, which is relatively rare for me.
12 p.m.: Speed-date conversations with five GMs, three farm directors and a pro scouting director in span of an hour.
1 p.m.: Head to airport.
2 p.m.: Run into Roch Kubatko and Tony La Russa at airport.
3 p.m.: Meet a part-time Angels scout who is looking for a full-time job. Amazing baseball IQ. I promise to help if I can.
4 p.m.: Takeoff…
6:20: …and landing, in Dallas for 20-minute layoff. Call players and wife to give updates.
7 p.m.: Back in the sky. Guy next to me if a top JuCo football player. I promise to set him up with a friend who is an NFL agent.
Midnight: I land and my amazing wife picks me up. Amped, can’t sleep. Next thing I know it’s 4 p.m. the next day. Waited one day before I start making calls again on Saturday, and that’s my week.
The Winter Meetings are an agent’s World Series. I got everything done that I wanted to, other than locking in a spot for one MiLB free agent who has some promising leads. I hate the location—for work purposes—but nevertheless had the best meetings of my 14-year career. Now to follow up with my lost lottery winner. Res Ipsa Loquitor
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