Feeding Frenzy (Crustacean Nation)

~Andrew Buchbinder, Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations

As the calendar pages flip to the twelfth month of the year, the baseball world is brought out of its fall slumber with the excitement and anticipation of the Winter Meetings, which are being held in Indianapolis next week.  It would not suffice to call the Meetings a three-ring circus — in reality, they’re more like a 16-ring circus (at least).

There really is something going on at all times during the Meetings, not the least of which is the frenzy surrounding the job fair.  The Winter Meetings Job Fair is like the long-saught-after watering hole in the middle of the Sahara for young men and women hoping to commence a career in baseball.

Ambitions abound, to say the least.  While securely employed by a hockey team, I went to the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last year.  The reason for my trip to Vegas was to test the baseball waters, and see if there were any opportunities out there that would enable me to re-inundate myself in the game I love the most.  Well, since I’m sitting here, clearly it worked out (we’ll get to that in a moment).

But first, let me just say that I have never appreciated, and I mean truly and deeply appreciated, my employment in the world of minor league sports as much as I have after witnessing the hysteria of the job fair.  Due to already having a job at that point, I was able to swing by the fair, keep my eyes and ears open, casually meet people, and not have to fly around in a constant state of panic, trying to run into some perceived person that is going to hire me, which is what the majority of the job fair attendees spend their entire Winter Meetings experience doing.

This is doubly true for radio guys.  They might kick me out of the club for saying this, but I was actually embarrassed by some of the tactics they were implementing in attempts at stealing a little time from GMs.  I actually saw radio guys staking out the lobbies of the meeting halls, waiting for the GM and Board of Governors meetings to let out so that they could pounce.  If you want to experience what it must have felt like to have the plague, try going to the Winter Meetings and telling a GM that you’re a broadcaster.  Whether you’re badgering them or not, it typically brings conversations to quick and awkward conclusions.

That being the case, and again the fact that I had a great job to fall back on, I went through the Winter Meetings experience relaxed.  I let opportunities (or, more realistically, rumors of opportunities) come to me, which they will if you keep your ears open.

Which brings me to how I ended up sitting in this chair in Hickory, NC.  Almost one full year ago, I attended the Texas Rangers reception at the Winter Meetings with the GM of the Bakersfield Blaze (our California League affiliate that I had called games for during the 2008 campaign).  Each team holds receptions for their systems, and Shawn Schoolcraft (Blaze GM) was kind enough to invite me to go with him.

I jumped at the opportunity.  Not because I intended to corner Nolan Ryan or John Daniels and try to badger my way into a job with them, or with any other team in the system for that matter, but just because I wanted to be in the same room as Nolan Ryan.  Extending your network of contacts always helps too.

In the end, I didnt even speak to Nolan Ryan or John Daniels.  However, I did speak to ‘Dads AGM Charlie Downs.  Just out of the blue, Shawn and I went up to Charlie and introduced ourselves, welcoming the Crawdads to the Rangers system.  Charlie and I kept talking, discussed what he does for the Crawdads, what I did for the Blaze and Condors… and it just so happened that the previous Crawdads broadcaster had just informed Charlie and GM Mark Seaman that he would not return for 2009.  Perfect, completely and utterly lucky timing.  Not forced, but natural.

On our way out, Shawn told me he’d meet up with me in a minute and doubled back to tell Charlie that I’d be a good fit.  That remains one of the absolute kindest things anyone has ever done for me, and I remain indebted to Shawn for the kind words.  The next day, I met with Charlie and Mark, then stayed in touch throughout the heart of winter, and wrapped up the talks in late January.  And now, somehow, another great year has passed.  My first with the Crawdads, and third in the fraternity of minor league sports.

The moral of this story is geared towards any and all of those hopefuls that are trying to get their feet in the door.  It is this – be attentive, be proactive, but, most importantly, be patient.  Be willing to let your opportunities play out.  Don’t stalk GMs.  And have fun, it tends to be the best way to get a job in a business centered around having and providing fun.  Just a glimpse into the wide world of the Winter Meetings Job Fair.

Andrew Buchbinder is entering his second season as director of broadcasting/media relations with the Crawdads.  He previously served in similar capacities with the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) and the Bakersfield Blaze, the ‘Dads High-A affiliate in the California League.

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