Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not-So-Secret Santa

One of the front office traditions (that we can print) is our annual holiday lunch, complete with a "Secret Santa" gift exchange.

I should explain that in addition to sharing the joy of the holiday season, we also exchange insults and do all that we can to embarrass each other. Hence, the sentiment that leads to one of the party's highlights...the Newbie A Cappella Performances.

Each year, any new full-time staff members are required to sing a song in front of the rest of the group, and the musical renditions range from mildly entertaining (B-Mac rapping Ice Ice Baby) to downright humiliating (a 6'6", 340-pound Will doing I'm A Little Teapot).

This year,
Baby Alexa and BTI graduated from the ranks of interns to join the full-timers (which now officially makes him BTFTE, but that doesn't have the same ring), and we've been joined by newcomer Matt Slatus. Brian regaled us with The Dreidel Song, and though he did a much better job than Cartman, it was a bit unsettling that he needed to read the words off a sheet of paper. What a meshugeneh. Matt then belted out a version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame that would have ended up here if we were in Chi-Town. And finally, Alexa did Nicky Pizza proud by turning Dominick the Donkey into a raucous singalong.

Next up came the gift-giving. With Ricky serving as Santa's helper, our "secret" gifts were doled out to the appropriate parties. I air-quoted the word secret because although it originally started out as a random drawing, it seems that people just kind of pick who they want these days, or put a name back in the hat if they don't want that person. I have to tell you... I'm all for this type of target marketing. It really makes everyone happier in the end.

I don't remember everything that everyone got, but some of the highlights included hand sanitizer for KJ, a not-so-limited edition of Return to Glory for me, pint glasses for Mahoney and Pat, Vlad giving his son a razor, and Steve getting Michael Scott's World's Best Boss mug (we think he gave it to himself, but no one really knows for sure).

And then came the coup de grace.

For those of you that don't remember, the highlight of last year's shindig was when, due to a name-selection snafu, Gary was told

I drew Gary's name this year, and originally planned to again give him the name of tradition, of course. Then, after rooming with
Captain Underpants in Indy, I decided to go a different route. I (cough, cough) noticed that GP could use an upgrade in undergarments, so I decided to be a good Samaritan and help him out. I had to guesstimate the size, of course, but I'm pretty confident that I was on target (size 7X).

See for yourself:

Just to be on the safe side, we did some actual tests, with as close to the real thing as we could get:

Needless to say, he was thrilled with the gift. He didn't say much -- he seemed awestruck, really -- but I could tell by the look in his eyes that I had given him exactly what he'd asked Santa for. It's a pretty amazing feeling to know that you've given someone the perfect gift. Something they want so badly, they don't even dare to imagine their dreams might come true. Those are the holiday moments that warm the cockles of my heart. I kind of feel like a more generous version of Ty Pennington. You're welcome, GP. You're welcome.

All in all, another wonderful holiday celebration in Cyclones Land.

Here are some more pics:

And speaking of The Office, ours will be closed from the 25th through the 3rd, but we'll be back on the 4th, and ready to roll for our 10th season. We have some cool announcements coming your way in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Until then, enjoy the holidays, and have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

-- Dave


Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Meetings Wrap-Up

I decided to put the last few days' worth of stuff into one giant post, rather than braving the molasses-slow network that is the Embassy Suites Business Center...

On Tuesday, we had our New York-Penn League meeting, which is sometimes filled with unique and interesting tidbits from around the league. This was not one of those times. After a scintillating start to the meeting ("Do I have a motion to adopt the minutes?" "So moved." "Is the motion seconded?" "Second."), each club gave a brief update/recap of the 2009 season (apparently, it rained last summer...I hadn't noticed), followed by a look ahead to 2010 ("we're looking forward to the 2010 season").

We were then briefly addressed by the president of Minor League Baseball, Pat O'Conner, which provided an oasis of interestingness, but then we got back to things like umpires uniforms and schedules. (Sidenote: we were informed that umps will be using "hand-held lightning detectors" this year, which were described as "inexpensive." I spent the next 10 minutes imagining an umpire standing on the mound, holding a fork in the air, waiting to see if a lightning bolt would hit it.)

Next up was a recap of the league's finances, contributions, etc. The charts on the projection screen were approximately this small (actual size), so I couldn't make out one single letter or number from my vantage point 50 feet away...but the overall message was that the league is in good shape (I think).

The NYPL as a whole drew over 1.75 million fans again last year, and has done so in every year since 2003. Pretty impressive for a Short-Season league. Granted, I haven't personally been a part of any other leagues, but I have to say that I think this one is filled with well-run teams and talented executives, from top to bottom. A really good group to be involved with.

Last but not least, the league awards were doled out, and the Cyclones received the Vincent J. McNamara Award as the league's outstanding club. But you already knew that.

After the meeting, we hit the Trade Show floor to check out some new promotional items, inflatable games, staff shirts, food, tarp covers, seat cushions...anything you can possibly experience at the ballpark is being hawked on the Trade Show floor. It's pretty cool, and traditionally my favorite part of the week. Some fun stuff in store that I'll leave up our collective sleeve until a later date.

On Wednesday, we had another NYPL meeting, during which Steve gave a presentation on the league's Charitable Foundation, and Kevin ran the nitty gritty of the Power Point presentation. (Pretty sure the "nitty" was his computer help, and the "gritty" was when he followed up the good will of the report by almost coming to blows with Oneonta GM Andy Webber...who was, admittedly, asking for trouble when he politely requested that an email of the presentation be sent to him. The gall of some people!)

We then discussed an exciting initiative the league will be taking this year to form an all-time team (more on that, too, at a later date), and then listened to a couple of pitches from vendors, before adjourning.

That afternoon, we gathered the crew from St. Lucie to form our traditional "pack," and headed to a popular Indianapolis restaurant called Harry & Izzy's for the inaugural "60/40 Dinner." It's partially owed by Peyton Manning (as is, I believe, every building, person, dog, cat, and horse in Indianapolis) and is renowned for its world-famous shrimp cocktail (which, incidentally, is slathered in a freshly-ground horseradish sauce that burned like wildfire through my nasal passage and singed my frontal lobe...and may have sent Gary to the hospital with an enlarged uvula). A good time was had by all.

Later that night, The Pack attended the MiLB Gala at Lucas Oil Stadium, home to -- you guessed it -- Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings Colts. It was a really great venue for the Gala, and included tours of the stadium. The Brooklyn contingent of The Pack took a tour that led us through the bowels of the stadium and onto the field:

The tour also led us to the highest point of the stadium, where I was amazed to find a completely foreign concept to me...a press box from which you can actually see the field! Huh. Imagine that:

It's really a great-looking stadium, and the tour was a fun perk. (I also used it as an opportunity to ask the guide if everyone in Peytonapolis got excited when the Giants came to town, because they got to see the "good" Manning. You know, the last one to win the Super Bowl. Elijah. She gave me a death stare and ignored me for the rest of the tour.

All in all, a good Winter Meetings trip, although somewhere a little warmer in the heart of the winter might be a good idea. Maybe someplace where dreams come true and we can all get a bit goofy. Just an idea.

-- Dave

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Meetings, 2009

With December comes the Winter Meetings -- baseball's annual executive get-together, packed with seminars, roundtable discussions, a trade show, awards, banquets, luncheons, and dinners. The 2009 edition has teams from around the country on a pilgrimage to Indianapolis, IN, where they apparently have a football team or something. (You literally can't go more than half a block without seeing a picture of a colt, a horseshoe, Peyton Manning, or Peyton Manning riding a colt while playing horseshoes. Sidenote: I've made it my personal goal to ask at least 10 Indianapolites if they can help me figure out Eli's brother's name. "Not Cooper. The other one." I might not make it home.)

Steve, Mahoney, Gary, and I made the trek this year, and got off to a bit of a rough start on Sunday (this is my bed, this is my air conditioner, and
this is my roommate). After arriving at the airport and spending 20 minutes watching our cab driver unsuccessfully but repeatedly slam the trunk on our luggage (he just needed an Allen wrench and some WD-40, according to Steve), the Meetings got underway on Monday morning with a few seminars, followed by the Opening Session (or a tour of the chicken samplers from the guys in the local mall food court, for those of us that opted out).

Next up was an awards luncheon, recognizing various honorees from various leagues (or "Dine & Dash," for the St. Lucie crew). Steve loved the cake.

Then, we headed to the Roundtable Discussions portion of the day. Lots of idea sharing in categories like "Sales & Marketing," "Fan Experience," "Ballpark Operations," etc. I attended mainly discussions that were themed around new media, social networking, tweeting, and things of that nature. It turns out this whole "Internet" thing is probably going to stick. As you know, since you're reading this, the Cyclones are at the front of the curve thanks to our
website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter page. It's interesting to see what other teams are doing and what some new trends are. I also got to see Ben Hill, who, along with Mark Titus and Joyce Huang, round out my top three favorite bloggers. (Incidentally, an impostor from a team in Lexington, KY claimed during his shpiel that they had the most popular blog in the minors. The little counter doohickey on the right says different. I demand that his false statement is stricken from the record.)

I should mention that our hotel location required us to use the indoor skywalk, which gives us the feeling of being inside a bio-dome, and is approximately seven miles long (at least it feels that way). We walk back and forth about a four dozen times a day, and ride the escalator about a million times. Since many of those times, it was just me and Kevin, and since we were dressed up, and dressed in similar attire, I referenced Rain Man every time we rode every escalator. In all of my references, I was Charlie, and Kevin was not happy.

On Monday night, the Mets hosted a cocktail hour for all of their affiliates, and in a stunning upset, Steve was named the Paul Taglieri Sterling Minor League Executive of the Year! Steve did his best Johnny Drama, thanked Kevin for doing all the "nitty gritty" stuff, and then was congratulated in the unique way males do such things...he was relentlessly made fun of for the remainder of the night.

Updates on the Trade Show, the NYPL meeting, and more tomorrow!

-- Dave

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Steve C. Phone Home

Some people are less tech savvy than others. Some people are virtually tech illiterate. And then there's Steve.

Quick example: A few years ago, at a meeting with our friends at the High School of Sports Management, a 15-year-old student took out a flash drive and explained that all of her info was on the drive. Steve later confided that until he saw her plug it into the laptop, he thought she was just going to throw it in the air, and a hologram would come out. (Help us, Steve. You're our only hope.)

Now, I'll admit...not everyone is on the level of Bill Gates, Al Gore, or myself. But there are some things that I thought -- until today -- everyone knew how to use, regardless of their level of tech-comfort. Like, say, a phone.

I was wrong.

Baby Alexa gave Steve a crash course in phone use this morning ("you talk into this end"), and somehow did so with a straight face. After their brief (20-minute) session, Steve decided to experiment by having Alexa go back to her desk (15 feet from his office), calling her from his cell, and doing his best
Verizon Guy impression, while testing out different grips.

He settled on the standard right-hand-to-right-ear position for cell use, but occasionally slips back into his
land-line comfort grip, which causes all sorts of problems (and makes next to no sense at all, since he's right-handed, despite the lefty placement of his mouse pad).

So if you call Steve on his new cell over the next few days (weeks), bear with him. He may not hear you, you may not hear him, or he may be trying to answer his stapler. He'll get the hang of it soon enough.

Until then, he'll be trying to figure out why his bluetooth won't work, even though he set his up just like
this guy.

-- Dave