WINTER MEETINGS A “FLURRY” OF ACTIVITY FOR CURVE CONTINGENT
Since our arrival in Dallas for the Baseball Winter Meetings, the weather has been as much of a topic as Jose Reyes’ $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins. The Curve contingent of owners Bob Lozinak, David Lozinak, and Sal Baglieri, assistant general manager Matt Hoover, and yours truly were met with temps in the 40s and rain on Sunday when we got off the plane. Monday brought more of the same. In fact, the local news was led by the report of snow flurries being spotting the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Dallas has had a recent history of big sporting events affected by weather. The NBA All-Star Game held in Big D two years ago endured a wintry blast, last February’s Super Bowl festivities in and around Cowboys’ Stadium were marred by an ice storm, and now this. Last year in Orlando, we had nighttime temps that threatened to put frost on the oranges during the Winter Meetings. At this rate, bringing baseball’s winter gathering to Altoona might not be such a bad idea.
Good thing for those of us working in baseball, that we can get all of our work done without stepping outside here in Dallas. The sprawling Hilton Anatole complex has guest rooms, conference rooms, exhibit space, shops, and plenty of food and beverage options under one roof. Meanwhile in the lobbies, executives from Major League and Minor League teams mingle to discuss what’s happening in their own organization, while keeping an eye on what other teams are doing.
The biggest splash so far was the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes to a multi-year free agent deal. The Fish are also rumored to be in the bidding for Albert Pujols. If they acquire the services of the game’s best overall hitter as well, the Marlins will sell a lot of tickets to their new, retractable-roof ballpark set to open in April. All of the sudden, new Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen is looking as if he’s crazy like a fox.
As far as the Curve are concerned, we spent the first full day attending the Bob Freitas Seminar to get insights into how others in the baseball and sports industry are operating their franchises. The seminar covers a wide array of topics including sales of tickets, merchandise, and sponsorships, ballpark operations, community relations, concessions, and more. Idea sharing is one of biggest strengths of our industry as it helps each of us provide a better experience for fans as they come to our ballparks.
Other activity on Monday included the Pirates’ affiliate reception which consisted of conversions with team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington, assistant general manager Kyle Stark, and new farm director Larry Broadway. The Pirates are trying to build on their first half success of a year ago and it’s enjoyable to hear them talk about the many former Curve players who are playing a large part in that improvement. As for the 2012 Altoona Curve, we’re hearing that there are some really exciting position players coming up from Class A Bradenton to join those returning from the 2011 squad.
After the Pirates’ reception, our group covered two areas at once on Monday night. Hoover and I went to a reception at the American Airlines Arena – home of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. We enjoyed a tour of the facility, saw the Larry O’Brien trophy up close, and talked with our host, Pete Thuresson, about the trends in national sports marketing. The Lozinaks and Baglieri attended “Opening Night at the Trade Show” to get a sneak peek at all of the items being vended that could possibly enhance what we offer at Blair County Ballpark.
Among the baseball celebrities spotted so far: Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland, former player and current MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar, ubiquitous writer/analyst Peter Gammons, former Pirates’ general manager Dave Littlefield, ESPN reporter Buster Olney, and Fox insider Ken Rosenthal.
Tomorrow, I’ll have a first-hand report from the carnival of activity at Baseball’s Trade Show. Until then, I’m grabbing my sweater AND a jacket!