Every baseball fan should experience attending the Winter Meetings, which, of course, my boss and new Hall of Fame electee Bowie Kuhn used to remind me are a mere memory by the time the calendar gets us officially to winter.
It is not easy for a fan to attend because the event is so large it probably would be necessary to stay off site. But just to roam the hallways of the official hotel would be a joy because there would be sightings of Hall of Fame members, managers, general managers and baseball media who come into the living room nightly at most every turn.
The Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where this year's sessions were held, is a myriad of walkways, canals, lobbies and ballrooms so large it is difficult to comprehend. Still, once Joe Fan got accustomed to navagating his or her way around they could have evesdropped on the ESPN TV and Radio broadcasts, or those of MLB.com or XM Radio, which have glamourized the setting.
I don't mean to be a name-dropper, but I have been to virtually every one of these gatherings since 1967 and have seen tremendous growth. It was fun even to a "seasoned" participant like myself to run into Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark at breakfast, to sit across from Cal Ripken, Jr., to watch another Hall of Fame member, Al Kaline, strolling along almost unrecognized and to run into--and have a conversation with--Lou Piniella. I've had the benefit of knowing and working with most of these men, but I don't see them all that often these days. My newer associates from Independent Baseball also were in evidence throughout each day, even though not all of them are as recognizable.
The casual fan would see all these personalities, too, and many times would be able to say hello, even though these are not intended to be autograph parties. Las Vegas gets the traveling circus of 3,000 or so participants next December.
SCHERZER MAY JUMP TO MAJORS
A couple of weeks back while praising the American Association's development, I noted that the two-year-old league would get more attention if it could start getting players to the majors, where the Atlantic and Northern Leagues dominate with the Independent grads who are in The Show today. The American Association did have Luke Hochevar with Kansas City late in the season.
Now no less a source than Baseball America believes Max Scherzer, a fellow righthander who also played for the two-time champion Fort Worth (TX) Cats in the American Association, could play for Arizona in 2008. Scherzer only signed with the Diamondbacks in May, but he dazzled in three starts in Class A and held his own in Double-A, then fanned 18 hitters in 13 innings for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. BB-A correspondent Jack McGruder reports "his rapid ascension makes him a candidate for the major league roster in 2008".
JEFF HARRIS INVITED BY INDIANS
The first official major league spring training invitation that this corner has seen for '08--there will be many more--went to Jeff Harris, now 33, a starter most of this season (6-9, 4.68) at Buffalo. It is good to see Cleveland wants the righthander back in its major league camp once more. Harris pitched in 14 games (2-5, 4.26) for Seattle in 2005-2006, shortly after the second of his two appearances in Indy baseball at Quebec. He also worked for Chico, CA, now a Golden League city, when it was in the Western League in 2001-2002.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
THE EXPERIENCE OF THE WINTER MEETINGS
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.