Poll a hundred baseball fans on what the Baseball Winter Meetings are all about, and you’re likely to get a hundred different answers. Most are likely to say that it’s where trades or signings take place, but after that, it gets vague.”Am I allowed to go?” “Is it in the same location?” “Is it free?” “What else goes on besides MLB’s doings?”
Here’s a primer.
There’s actually three key sanctioned events that are tied to the Winter Meetings that will take place at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort near Orlando, Fla., from December 6 – 9. It will be the 109th such event that has changed some over the years. The key focus by media and fans centers on MLB’s gathering of GMs, player agents, executives, managers, and occasionally, players. In years past, it allowed the principles that needed to be in a central location to work player deals. As the advent of cellphones, email, and a change in the baseball calendar have moved forward, some have said the Meetings are no longer as important as they used to be. Still, It’s an event worth attending if you are looking to network, or report on the signings and trades that go down, if you can land media credentials.
In total, all 30 Major League Baseball organizations will be represented, as well as more than 160 Minor League Baseball teams.
Do You Need Credentials to Attend?
No, if you’re looking to hang in the lobby and network. Yes from MLB, if you want to gain access to the media workroom where press conferences and announcements take place. You’ll also need a separate set of credentials from Minor League Baseball if you want to attend the Trade Show, or you have to register to gain access to the Job Fair. Officially, the Baseball Winter Meetings are not open to the general public.
Here’s the detailed breakdown of access beyond the lobby of the hotel:
- An approved member of a Minor League Baseball organization;
- An approved member of a Major League Baseball organization;
- An approved non-member;
- Credentialed members of the media;
- A Baseball Trade Show Exhibitor, or;
- A Job Fair attendee
So, how much does it cost to attend? On the MLB side, you can’t buy your way into the work areas. You can, however, pay and get into the Trade Show… if you have some serious green and are approved. Here’s how it breaks out:
- NAPBL / MLB Clubs or League $292.88 ($275.00 + 6.5% sales tax)
- Approved Non-Members *$505.88 ($475.00 + 6.5% sales tax)
- NAPBL / MLB Clubs or League $452.63 ($425.00 + 6.5% sales tax)
- Approved Non-Members **$665.63 ($625.00 + 6.5% sales tax)
*You must be approved by the Minor League Baseball Office to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings as a Non-Member.
Since the deadline to register for the Trade Show was Oct. 22, you’re going to have to shell out the more expensive end of the deal here. Is it worth it? Depends. If you have a business that deals with manufacturers such as New Era, Spalding, Daktronics, et al, then you might see return on your investment. As a fan just interested, the cost is far too much to get a return on your investment, and besides, there’s that issue of approval by MiLB to deal with: you have to show good reason for attending.
What About the Job Fair?
PBEO, or Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities, holds an annual Job Fair at the Winter Meetings. It’s where Minor League Baseball conducts the lion’s share of hiring each year, with a handful of MLB positions. Most will know this, but to spell it out, don’t expect to see, “Wanted: Major League General Manager” posted on the boards at the Fair. Most are entry level positions, but there are jobs on all sides of ops, with a smattering of scouting positions that surface from time to time.
There’s more to the Winter Meetings… a Gala Event… the Bob Freitas Business Seminar… the Opening Night of the Trade Show will get you free drinks and food… but, as the Meetings go, this is about work for MLB, MiLB and the industry that supports them.
By the way, if you think taking your kid to the Winter Meetings is in order, think again. If you’re able to get into the events, if your child is 4 or older, they get charged the same price as adults.
And while these are the sanctioned events, at least one conference not associated with the Winter Meetings is occurring on Dec. 5-6. SportsManagementWorldwide, who I have been working with for several years, is holding their Baseball Career Conference. Last year, Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti was the closing speaker, and this year will see Stan Kasten, Jim Duquette, Jerry Crasnick, Chaim Bloom, myself, and many others speak (see more details here). At $150.00 per person, this might be the least expensive way to network outside of the hotel lobbies.
Finally, remember this is to just gain access to the events. It doesn’t include your hotel and transportation.
If you can make it, I believe it’s worth it. Getting your foot in the door in baseball requires an incredible amount of networking. The Winter Meetings are the one place where everyone is in one spot. Where else can you have Tommy Lasorda, Bill James, Frank Robinson, Scott Boras, Bob DuPuy, Billy Beane, and Bobby Cox all within 20 feet of each other (this scene actually occurred by the elevators in the lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas two years ago)? There’s also trainers, scouts, media, reps from the leagues… it’s truly an “industry event”.
As far as FanGraphs goes, I, along with David Appelman and David Cameron will all be attending the event this year in Orlando. If you plan on attending, let us know. We’d love to say, hi.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.