POSTCARDS #2 FROM THE BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS

It’s a veritable Lobbyfest
here at the Marriott today.  As soon as
you leave the snow-covered sidewalk outside and enter the hotel lobby, you
think one of two things:  either the
Indiana State Fair has decided to go indoors–minus the farm animals–or the Pope
has arrived and is about to address the masses. 
Or to borrow a well-worn phrase, the Marriott lobby looks like a zoo.


There are literally hundreds of
people jammed into a very small space.  In one corner, there’s
Peter Gammons,
Buster Olney
and ESPN producers
discussing what stories they are working on for tonight.  In the area near the front desk, there’s the
A’s former bench coach
Don Wakamatsu,
now the Mariners’ manager, being interviewed by a TV crew.  Meanwhile, veteran scribe
Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago
Tribune
is trading barbs with a couple of my PR counterparts, and I
exchange pleasantries with two long-time baseball writers,
Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia
Daily News
and
Peter ******* of the Baltimore Sun.  Hagen
says he’s finally recovered from the long postseason covering the Phillies
through the World Series (of course, I think to myself, if only our beat writers could have those
complaints next season!)

 

Earlier this morning, I sat
through a series of topics in the MLB Public Relations Meetings.  In light of reduced budgets and growing
environmental awareness, the group has decided to drastically reduce the
printing of both club media guides and league publications in 2010.  Only a very limited amount will be
distributed to key media and broadcast partners, but all media will have access
to our information online and on computer flash drives.  I’m proud we have taken this step, which is
long overdue.  It will save thousands of
dollars and also thousands of trees! 


There was also an hour and half set aside for various round-table
discussions, where such league partners as ESPN, TBS, Sirius/XM, MLB Network,
MLB.com, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and others were
situated throughout a meeting room.  It
was good to renew friendships, and also to discuss any new developments in
their area or ways we can improve our working relationship. 


And speaking of relationships, that was the
very subject that
John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press, vice president of
the BBWAA, and I discussed during the roundtable session.  We both agreed that the relationships–yes,
even the friendships–between writers and PR people have deteriorated in recent
years, to the point where many out-of-town writers and PR representative don’t
even know each other any more.  Clearly both sides are under a lot more
stress these days, with many writers living under the constant pressure of
losing their jobs or having to file so many stories each day that they no
longer have time to phone their sources or merely do any critical thinking before they write.  And PR people continue to take on more work
assignments, forcing them to spend more time in their office or hotel room
instead of “pressing the flesh” and work at developing or maintaining
relationships with media.  I know this
subject transcends my job and the sports industry, as I have friends in other
businesses who share the same frustrations.

 

On a more positive note,
tomorrow I plan to make my first visit to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, rated as an Indiana institution and
true landmark.  So, even if Billy doesn’t
swing that blockbuster trade in the next couple of days, I am guaranteed at
least one memorable highlight at this year’s Winter Meetings.  Now, I must close and head back to The Lobby,
where the baseball Hot Stove League lives and breathes.  If I hear any good rumors, you’ll be the
first to know.


As always, stay tuned…

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