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The hunt for a job in baseball at the winter meetings

If you want to hunt for a low-paying job in baseball, the competition will be fierce.

The overwhelming share of the attention at baseball’s winter meetings goes to the major league side, and rightfully so. Trade rumors galore, and all the wheeling and dealing with every organization in one place at one time lends itself to action, and interest.

“The fact that all 30 teams are focused at the exact same time really helps,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last week in Las Vegas.

But while there is tremendous focus on the fates of billion-dollar organizations and millionaire players, another side of the winter meetings sees aspiring thousandaires trying to climb the baseball ladder.

“I didn’t know anything about other than on the major league side that’s where a lot of deals and signings took place,” said Alex Freedman, play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. “I didn’t know there was this job fair or anything like that.”

Freedman first experienced the PBEO Job Fair in 2005, as a senior at Northwestern. He estimated there were 200 or so job applicants at those winter meetings in Dallas. That number has essentially tripled in a little over a decade, with PBEO pegging the number at around 600 in 2018.

These applicants are looking for a way into baseball, and the vast majority of jobs are entry level. Much like the players, these job-seekers get a chance at the minor leagues first, with a chance to work their way up to the major leagues.

There is a barrier of entry to this job fair, with folks paying $175 just to attend (or $225, including membership to the PBEO). But even though all 30 organizations are represented at most levels at the winter meetings, it doesn’t necessarily mean one might get to interview for a job on site.

“It’s a very old, archaic type of job fair. I was under the impression that there would be booths set up, and you would meet and greet, shake hands, things like that,” said Max Gun, now the play-by-play announcer for the Class-A Lynchburg Hillcats. “But it is literally just a huge room full of bulletin boards. They have everything from account executives to mascot to groundskeeper, and for us radio guys.

“In the top right corner of these postings, there is a three-digit number. If you’re interested in that job you take your resume or envelope, whatever you’ve brought with you, and write that three-digit number, submit it into a big box, then hope and pray somebody lays their eyes on it. I was unaware of that, but then I quickly realize you have to spend as little time as possible in that job room. You want to be out in the lobby networking, shaking hands.”

“It was exciting for me, and intense. Sometimes there are new jobs that get posted as the day goes on,” said Chris Vosters, a former minor league announcer who now calls games for NBC Sports and Big Ten Network. “Whenever a new posting goes up a queue will build up and develop, as people are craning their necks to see what it is, trying to determine how desirable it might be.”

It’s a delicate balance, trying to keep up to date with new postings in the job room while also keeping tabs on either the hallway of the convention center or the lobby at the hotel, which in some cases is a 10-minute walk away, trying to get face time with folks wearing a polo with a team logo who may or may not have some sway in the hiring process.

It is rare to get actually offered a job at the winter meetings, but applicants can cast a wide net with as many submissions as possible. Some teams conduct interviews at the winter meetings — “If they’re at the winter meetings, I want to talk to them in person,” said Kevin Collins, director of public relations of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes — while others prefer to gather all the applications and set up interviews at a later time.

Much like the Major League Baseball offseason, the winter meetings for job seekers isn’t a deadline in itself. There is plenty of time to get things done after Las Vegas when it comes to preparing for the 2019 season.

“In terms of minor league jobs, the winter meetings and where that falls in the offseason is really the midway point,” Vosters said. “A lot of things open up after the winter meetings, it’s not like you have to put all of your eggs in one basket.”

One thing is clear, especially as the job fair grows in popularity. It’s getting harder and harder to stand out among the hundreds of job seekers.

“A lot of them you can discard right away, but there are some where this person seems interesting, I want to talk to them,” Collins said. “They may not be a perfect fit, but their cover letter was good or just something stood out. If they were this creative or unique, I definitely want to at least talk to them.”

Las Vegas marked the ninth winter meetings for Ben Gellman-Chomsky, who announced games for Class-A Salem in 2017 and 2018. His first meetings were in 2009 in Indianapolis, and he quickly realized he needed to find a niche.

“The running gag about the winter meetings in terms of job seekers is that it’s 80% white males between the ages of 22 and 26 in blue or gray suits with white shirts and blue ties,” said Gellman-Chomsky. “You have to do something to stand out a little bit.”

Ben Gellman-Chomsky’s business card is fashioned in the style of the 1960 Topps baseball card set.
Photo: Ben Gellman-Chomsky

He found his muse in the guise of old baseball cards, fashioning his business cards in the style of old Topps sets. He first drew on the 1989 Topps set for his business card in 2012, then used 1986 Topps in 2014. After using just the front of the design in those first two attempts, Gellman-Chomsky took it a step further in 2016, making a complete business card, front and back, using the 1957 Topps design.

“That got a very positive reaction from everyone I showed it to. I had a couple people at those winter meetings tell me that was part of what landed me the interview, having this creative business card. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in when I put it together.”

This year, Gellman-Chomskey channeled 1960 Topps, trying to stand out again.

When it comes down to it, that’s really the key of the winter meetings for folks looking for a job. It’s getting to know as many people as you can, and making yourself memorable to them. That’s how to get a foot in the door, and how to stay inside that door once you find your way in.

“You just never know who you’re going to meet there,” Freedman said. “Will it necessarily help me right then and there? No, but you just never know when a connection is going to help you.”