December 2016

Meet Jeremy Rochford, the man that will do anything to become a Scout

We’ve all heard those cliché expressions. “You have to follow your dreams”, and “you can only get there if you try as hard as you can try”. Well, during my trip the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland, I met the guy that wanted to put those clichés to the test.

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His name is Jeremy Rochford, a 28 year old from California, who has had various jobs throughout MiLB, and has tried to follow his dream of becoming a scout since he was a junior in high school.

What did he do?

He packed his bags, flew across the continental USA, and landed in the Nation’s Capital, with his huge sign, which reads “PLEASE INTERVIEW ME”, hoping that someone would take it seriously and offer him a position.

I had seen him multiple times in the lobby of the Gaylord National, and I had seen some people taking photos with him, laughing (in a good way) and he even got on the MLB Network at one point.

After learning a little bit about him, I wanted to interview with him for MetsPlus, as it sounded like a surreal story, and after speaking with him, I almost felt like hunting down executives to give him a chance, because he was so passionate about his craft. I asked him some questions, and here are some of the memorable answers he gave me:

Niko Goutakolis: How long have you worked do become a scout? 

Jeremy Rockford: I knew that I wanted to become a scout since I was a kid, evaluator or an executive since I was a kid, and I’ve been applying for jobs since I was in 11th grade.

Niko: What is your experience?

Jeremy: I’ve had some internships the last few years. Minor League video with the Rockies this past season, I also drove to San Fransisco to edit video with MLB, and I moved out to Pennsylvania to do video scouting. Before that, I worked as a ticket agent for the Lake Elsinore Storm, and I would try to finish my shift early so I could go out and watch the Storm hit batting practice.

Niko : How did you progress out of the internships?

Jeremy: 2013 was the first year I got really sick of it. So, I decided to go out and do my own scouting at High School and Minor League Games. I would talk to other scouts, and pick their brains, and write my own reports. It’s been a four year drive.

Niko: Is this your first Winter Meetings?

Jeremy: I actually went to the Winter Meetings two years ago in San Diego, I live an hour north of San Diego, I tried to email people. Get some meet-ups and network a little bit, and it didn’t go too well. This time around, I decided I would come out with a different strategy.

Niko: Tell me about your strategy, your “Interview Me sign”?

Jeremy: People have told me about it getting on TV, and it’s a definitly gaining attention, which was the intention. There are hundred and hundred of people looking for a job in Baseball, some of which want a job in Baseball operations like me. Most of them are wearing suits and have finely cut hair and all that other good stuff, and this is something that tries to make me stand out. I want to do something that helps me stand out. Whether or not it was a good thing, some people have laughed at me, and that’s fine.

Niko: What would you say to a kid that wants to get into Baseball Operations but has zero experience? 

Jeremy: If it’s something you truly want, you’ve got to stay persistent, day after day, year after year. It’s not going to be easy, and you have to remember most of those people fail. The majority of the people do, and that’s just what happens. So you have to stay persistent and you have to speak your mind, not arrogant but yourself. When I was first trying to break into the game, I was very humble, and when I came out with a humble attitude, it didn’t work out. So, I learned that I had to be more on the aggressive side, and that’s the advice I would give.



Thanks to Mr.Rochford for taking the time to answer these questions, I hope you get the opportunity you’ve been yearning for, your perseverance is admirable!  

#MetsPlus360: Winter Meetings (Day Three)

Today, the 6th of December, which is St.Nicholas Day, was my last day at the Baseball Winter Meetings, however, like I said yesterday, it was probably my most successful day of the three.

The day started with breakfast at the Pienza Marketplace, which had one of the best breakfast buffets I had seen in any hotel I have visited, and I have visited a lot of the years.

I had a Belgian Waffle and some Bacon, alongside some pastries. They were very good, and I especially enjoyed the powdered sugar, something I usually don’t care for.

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I then decided to look at the MLB Network set, which I had been admiring for the past few days. In fact, while I was standing in the back lobby, someone sent me a photo of me in the background of the “High Heat with Christopher Russo” show!

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After that neat experience, I went to Brian Kenny’s (the popular host of “MLB Now”) book signing. He recognized me from a few days ago, and we had a good conversation about his book and his work on the MLB Network. I’ll review the book hopefully once I finish reading it.

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Lunch followed this event, and I then went to the Baseball Trade Show, which was located in the Convention Center of the Gaylord National. I will be writing up a way more in-depth article tomorrow about the Trade Show, but here are a few candids:

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Welcome to the Trade Show!

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Sample Exhibit, for Wilson

Alas, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and, when the sun rises tomorrow, my Winter Meetings journey will be over. My coverage does not end tonight, I still have two to three more posts that I want to publish that have been backlogged, and will come out tomorrow, and I’ll post a general recap on Thursday, but I wanted to take this time to thank some of the people that made this day possible.

  • My parents, for taking the journey with me to the Winter Meetings for the second year in a row.
  • Jeff Lantz, for giving me credentials, which he didn’t have to do, and allowing me into the Trade Show. He made this experience super memorable and special.
  • Brian Kenny, for personally saying Hi whenever he saw me, and remembering my name, which is quite the feat considering all the people that must say “hello” to him on a daily basis.
  • Robert Manfred, for being at the helm of this great event.
  • Steve Gelbs, Greg Amsinger and other TV Personalities, for being accessible and willing to take photos.
  • To the staff at the Gaylord for being amazing hosts.

I look forward to the 2017 Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida!

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I’m here at the 2015 Winter Meetings!

Considering I’m here at the 2016 Winter Meetings, I wanted to showcase an older post from my first time at the Winter Meetings, last year:

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Me At the WinterMeetings

The Winter Meetings have long been touted as the biggest week in the MLB offseason. This year, the MLB Winter Meetings are being held in the Gaylord Opryland hotel, and that’s where I am now!

Before I go into any details about the Meetings or the Mets, I want to thank the people that got everything worked out that allowed me to come down here. It’s a very prestigious event and I know that space at the Resort is limited, and I’m very proud to cover these meetings for MetsPlus.com, I hope it’s the first of a few.

MLB NETWORK DESK MLB Network’s desk for their daily coverage of the Meetings

I’ve already seen people I know from MLB Network TV shows, and there is a great energy in the building. I flew in from New York late last night, and I just checked in at this amazing resort. Inside the resort, there…

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#MetsPlus360: Winter Meetings (Day Two)

Day Two of the Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings is closing up, and it was probably the best day I’ve had in the last two years of being at the Meetings.

I started the day with an “express” breakfast at The Cocoa Bean, which is basically Starbucks with a different name and increased prices.

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After my hot tea and croissant, I proceeded to check the pulse of the atrium, and immediately noticed that there were several guys and girls with credentials titled “job seeker”. I knew what they were here for, the PBEO Job Fair, but I knew next to nothing about what happens at said Job Fair, and I wanted to find out more.

So, I decided to ask some of these attendees about their nerves, hopes and thoughts on the Job Fair, and decided to write a separate post about it here.

After that, I decided to get out of the Gaylord and look around National Harbor, which is actually really beautiful. The Capital Wheel, which is shown every two minutes on MLB Network, is the crown jewel of the Harbor. However, I quickly received word of something going on in the hotel, so after a quick soup, we returned to the Gaylord, only to figure out that nothing was going on after all. Instead, these two, huge (and important) guys were following me around the Gaylord. Here is a picture of them, they might look familiar:

I then checked out the situation at the MLB Trade Show, which I will be looking at tomorrow, but I had to do some checking-in of sorts. I did take a picture of myself in front of one the signs, and I’ll be sure to share my experiences tomorrow.

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During the entire day, like yesterday, I walked back and forth throughout the tv sets where networks like MLB Network set-up. I watched some of my favorite shows do live tapings throughout the day, although I couldn’t speak to any of the hosts as they were roped off.

After a busy day at the meetings, my family took me to a nice dinner for St.Nicholas Day, which is tomorrow, at the “Old Hickory Steakhouse”.  I enjoyed a Flat Iron Steak, that was very dry, but once again, I’m a baseball blogger, not a food critic.

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Tomorrow is my last full day at the Meetings and I have three posts lined up for another action-packed day.

What is the PBEO Job Fair?

Everyone knows that the Winter Meetings are being held this week in National Harbor, Maryland, but what people don’t know is that among the media, owner and representatives are job seekers from the Baseball PBEO Job Fair, an amazing opportunity for people to get a position with a major or minor league ball club.

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Naturally, with all of the signs posted and a lack of information online, I was anxious to learn more about the Job Fair, and the best way to learn more is from the people that are attending themselves.

Some people had been there for years, and some people were attending the Trade Show for the first time. One of those so-called “newbies” was Mr.Zach McCraw, who was very excited to have the ability to actually “put your resume in front of people who have a real opportunity of giving you a job [as opposed to] sending an email or blindly sending in an resume”. In fact, Mr.McCraw confirmed to me that he had over 100 resumes printed ready in a moments notice.

Additionally, while there is an actual area where the Job Fair takes place, sometimes that’s not where one gets the ability to prove themselves worthy of a job opportunity. “Having an elevator pitch [is important.] You never know when you’re going to find yourself in an elevator with someone like a Joe Maddon…” said Mr.McCraw. And once Zach said that, I could immediately relate. In the 26 hours that I’ve been at the Gaylord National, I’ve tried to do all I can to make sure I make an impression on the professional columnists and national beat writers that I’ve seen in random places like the restroom, the Concierge Desk, or an elevator.

Not everyone gets a job or an instant offer, though, which was he case for one of the more experienced Job Fair attendees, Ken Gaffney, who had attended three events at the Gaylord National and attended two Job Fairs. He too looked very sharp with a nice suit and a tie. He explained to me that the Job Fair is the “first stepping stone” for people that want to get into any industry, “ranging from stadium operations to ticket sales, media relations, social media, exc.”

However, Mr.Gaffney did warn me that attendees “should not get their hopes up.” “You might have to start off out in the Rookie League or Short-Season A level” which often play from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and are often labeled as part-time positions. In fact Mr.Gaffney didn’t get a call until late January/early February, when he got a position with a  team in the Appalachian League.

One thing is for sure, there is a lot of nervous, but exciting energy in this massive hotel, and there is way more happening here than just some owners dealing players.

 

 

#MetsPlus360: Winter Meetings (Day One)

Today was my first day at the 2016 Winter Meetings, and boy, was it one hell of an experience. Here is a full recap of my jam-packed day at the Winter Meetings:


 

I arrived via Amtrak, which turned out to be a fairly convenient way of getting to the Nation’s Capital. I then used Uber, which I’ve been fairly hesitant of using considering you really don’t know who your driver is, but I was impressed by a friendly driver, who told me that National Harbor is very excited for the Winter Meetings, as it’s scheduled to drastically increase and improve business.

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I immediately noticed that this Gaylord, called “Gaylord National” was considerably more compact compared to the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville where the meetings were held last December. It’s not nearly as magnificent or opulent as the Opryland Hotel, however, it does have a certain quaint quality, and it is definitely more navigable.

The Check-In desks are located directly to the left from the entrance, with separate areas for Elite Members and General Registration.

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Being a Marriott Platinum, I proceeded to the Elite Member desk, and was helped by a friendly representative, who explained to me the layout of the hotel, and gave me a room on the seventh floor overlooking the Atrium and the Potomac River.

After checking in, I got my first glance at the stunning atrium, which was complemented by a beautiful Christmas Tree:

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The room is fair, nothing photo-worthy, but the necessities are all there. Good TV, Good View, clean, spacious and it even has a small little balcony. After settling in, I actually decided to head down to the National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill to eat lunch, as I had zero breakfast.

The National Pastime is a good grill, with American comfort foods. Our waitress recommended the Pulled Pork Sandwich, so I went with that. It was good, but didn’t taste exceptionally unique, but, I’m not a food critic, and I didn’t complain.

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I then did some circling around the atrium, ballroom and overlook and found a merchandise stand located adjacent to the Trade Show registration desk, which I will be covering on Tuesday (stay tuned) A little more walking around, and I ran into Greg Amsinger, the host of MLB Network’s Emmy Award winning program, MLB Tonight.

I was really in awe when I met him, and I’m not just saying that. One of the reasons I started this blog was because of Matt Nadel, a Baseball history writer who also started blogging at a young age. He always praised Amsinger, and I’ve watched him on MLB Network since 2009.

Speaking about MLB Network hosts, I met Brian Kenny, the host of MLB Now, and formally of Clubhouse Confidential in the building lobby.

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Mr.Kenny informed me of his signing at the Gaylord which might take place on Tuesday  for his book, Ahead of the Curve. This event will be open to the public, so, if your in the area, keep an ear out and check Mr.Kenny’s social media accounts, I’ll be there.

Next, I went to head down to the shops, which are located on the ground floor. Lo and behold the guy that was behind me was the Mets Field Reporter, Steve Gelbs.

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If there was an award for most likable reporter, Mr.Gelbs would win. Frankly, I was a little nervous talking to him, as I didn’t plan any dialogue, but my father was very excited to see him as well, and he cheerfully accepted to take a photo with me.

At this point it was nighttime, so I went to take some additional photos of the scenery here, and I was surprised to see that there is a lightship in the Atrium at nights.

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Before heading to dinner with my parents, I stopped by the second floor, where ESPN, SNY, MLB Network and all the other major TV Networks that broadcast live from the meetings, and I was amazed to see a taping of MLB Tonight in person.

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Overall, this was a great first day, and I met people I’d never imagine meeting. I still have two more full days here, and I’ll be sure to cover every minute of it. unnamed-41

 

 

Fast Facts on the Gaylord National Hotel & Resort

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  • The Gaylord National is one of four Gaylord locations worldwide, there is a fifth location being built in Colorado, called Gaylord Rockies.
  • The Gaylord National Hotel & Resort was built in 2008.
  • There is approximately 2,000 (yes, 2,000) rooms at the 19 story hotel.
  • There are seven restaurants on property.
  • The hotel has hosted other major events, like MAGFest, the Republican National Committee, Katsucon, Miss America, and other noteworthy events.
  • The hotel lies only 8 miles south of the Nation’s Capital
  • The hotel is owned and managed by Marriott International, which is a worldwide chain with thousands of properties.
  • The Gaylord will also host the Trade Show and the Job Fair, in addition to the Winter Meetings.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

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Today is December 4th 2016, lockout fears are behind us, the Mets are in good shape, and the Winter Meetings have officially begun.

As of the writing of this post, I’m in Newark, New Jersey, on Amtrak train 155 enroute to Union Station from where I’ll be traveling via taxi to the Gaylord National Hotel & Resort. This is my second year attending, and, as a Marriott Platinum member, I love how MLB seems to always pick a Marriott brand hotel for the Winter Meetings.

Now, everyone is going to the Winter Meetings for a different reason it seems, and I would like to clarify what I’m going to be doing at the Meetings:

I will be going to the Winter Meetings to cover the venue, the atmosphere and the scene. I will not (at least I believe) be breaking a story on a big signing. I will be doing some interviews, some videos, and will be attending some marquee events like the Trade Show.

This should be an exciting three days, so be sure to tweet me with any questions you may have @NikoMetsPlus or use the #WinterMeetings and I’ll be sure to reply promptly.

 

Mets sign René Rivera

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I guess the Mets are really taking to the phrase, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, because after signing Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets promptly singed another guy that helped the Mets in 2016, René Rivera.

René was not exceptionally helpful with his bat, only batting 222 with 26 runs batted in, but in was his composure and his performance behind the plate that made him beneficial to last year’s Mets.

René was Noah Syndergaard’s personal catcher down the stretch in 2016, and he helped him immensely with his caught stealing percentage, and eliminated 25% of the stolen bases compared to Travis d’Arnaud’s statistics.

The deal is very simple, it’s a one year deal worth $1.75 million, and it’s worthwhile, as I firmly believe that if there is one place that you want a veteran, experienced, journeyman, it’s a catcher, especially when you have a young and growing pitching staff.