December 8th, 2016
One of the most important events that takes place at the Winter Meetings each year is the Baseball Trade Show, which is a massive venue that showcases the top products from premier businesses and organizations. There were representatives from all sorts of companies, from Hampton Farms Peanuts to a technology company called Revel.
The breakdown of the exhibits is as follows, according to the official website:
|Promotional Products/Giveaway Items||71%|
|Retail – Apparel & Merchandise||49%|
|Player Equipment & Uniforms||30%|
|Entertainment – Gameday, Inflatables, Fireworks, Talent||29%|
|Concessions – Food & Beverage, Carts, Services||20%|
|Stadium Equipment – Seating, Video/Scoreboards, Padding, Turf||19%|
|Ticketing Software or Tickets||8%|
|Other – Architecture, Marketing & Internet Services, Education||6%|
Personally, I have interest in all of those industries, and they are all a very important part of the baseball experience, so I was very happy when I heard I would be receiving separate credentials for the Trade Show on Tuesday.
Before, I go any further, however, I need to acknowledge Jeff Lantz, the Senior Director of Communications for Minor League Baseball for coordinating this for me, and helping me out numerous times throughout the process. He is a true professional, a class act that deserves a lot of credit, and I’d like to officially thank him here on this post.
When I received the credentials, I noticed their sleek design. New Era and Toledo Ticket Company were the official sponsors of the Trade Show, and Toledo Ticket Company actually manufactured the credential and the design.
The event was held in a large ballroom near the atrium level, called the Prince George Exhibit Hall, which, according to the folks at the Gaylord, totals 23,361 square feet, and has 24 foot-high ceilings.
I was quickly scanned by a friendly staff member, and I immediately saw how grand this Exhibit Hall was. The only thing I could somewhat compare it to was Fan Fest at the Javits Center, but even that doesn’t do it justice.
Bags, for any giveaway item, promotion or sample that we received, were provided free of charge courtesy of Majestic.
I started in the southwest corner of the Trade Show, and instantly saw a recognizable booth. It was Coopersburg Sports from CNBC’s show The Profit. The owner was much nicer in person than he was depicted on television.
Next up were a few things that I’ve seen at Citi Field. First was the ultra popular Dynamic Drinkware, which makes the special collectible cups that you can get when purchasing a large soda at the ballpark. They have some pretty cool designs including “live” cups.
Another thing I recognized from Citi Field was the company that makes Fan Walk Bricks, called Fund Raisers Sports. They have done bricks at a lot of Baseball, Football and Public event spaces.
I have a brick located in front of the Stengel Entrance, and it looks great. The owner, however, did confirm that bricks are bricks, and are subject to erosion. I’m very curious what will happen to the fan walk bricks in around 30 years.
One of my favorite exhibits were the booths related to tickets. Tickets.com, the company that the Mets use as their ticket portal, showed me their latest technology advances, and the things that they are doing. Tickets.com, at least to me, is the best way to purchase baseball tickets, and they are implementing seat selection on a mobile device for next season.
The other two companies, the Toledo Ticket Company (the company I mentioned earlier), and Worldwide Ticketcraft, discussed with me how mobile ticketing is hurting their business, but the niche market, of collectable tickets is keeping them alive and well.
While all of this was happening, buyers were walking around speaking to owners and making deals, and since I was a younger reporter, everyone seemed either very relaxed when talking to me, or, wanted to dismiss me quickly, both of which I understand.
One of the best interactions I had was with the guys from the American Cancer Society, who gave out free luggage tag-wraps, and shared their story. Both of the gentlemen were cancer survivors, and their work with the Cancer Society was truly admirable to me, so if, you have some time and can donate some money, you can do that by clicking here.
Some of the other people that I had good conversations with were people that designed scoreboard and scoreboard graphics, like Daktronics, the guys that installed the massive scoreboard in Citi Field two seasons ago.
I had a great discussion with the gentleman that designed scoreboards for Formetco about how line boards are being phased out for smaller box scores and larger irrelevant box scores. He agreed with me, and he explained how much the Baseball scoreboard has evolved over the last five years.
Under Armour had a little area, and I could just imagine how excited they were, considering they are going to be manufacturing MLB Uniforms in three years with their logo featured front and center.
Another controversial manufacturer of on-field gear that was present at the event was New Era, which announced that their famous flag logo will be embroidered on all caps starting next year, something we got a bitter taste of in the postseason last year. Still, the folks were very nice and cheerfully gave me a collectible Winter Meetings cap as a memento.
Perhaps my favorite, booth, though was the #MiLBcommUNITY booth, which kind of reminded me of the Stand Up To Cancer tribute that is held annually during the World Series. I was prompted to draw on a placard what community meant to me, and I stood in front of a backdrop, and was told to tweet out the photo, which would automatically donate $1 dollar to charity, which was a win-win.
Overall, the Trade Show was a highlight of my time at the Winter Meetings. Getting to see everything that makes the baseball experience run as smoothly as it does. It takes hard working people to print out the ticket stock, create the machines that scan the ticket, and so on, and every time I go to I ballpark from now on, I hope to see that through a new lens.
Everyone at the Trade Show was very welcoming and very anxious and excited to share their products, and if I get the chance to come back to the Winter Meetings in Orlando in 2017, I’d be honored to come back to the Trade Show at meet new faces and discover new products.