Whiskey is flowing at baseball winter meetings

December 10, 2009
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Question: Where can you get a free corn dog, cup of dippin’ dots, a swill of beer and a shot of whiskey?

Answer: The same place you can bounce like a kangaroo in an inflatable house, find guys hitting fungos across a massive convention room and see a man use a saw and belt sander to turn a tree trunk into a 32-ounce baseball bat.
 
The annual baseball Winter Meetings of course, which are being held through today at the Indiana Convention Center.

Attendance is down this year about 10 percent, with 5,000 attendees coming to town. But that’s enough, reported the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, to book the four host hotels solid this week. Direct visitor spending is projected to hit $4 million, and the event brings in lots of Major League Baseball executives who have either rarely or never been to Indianapolis.
 
Not to mention an army of media including ESPN, Fox Sports and about every baseball beat writer nationwide. The activities in the media room alone are good entertainment. It’s great exposure for the city.

But when I got my personal tour of the happenings from Indianapolis Indians Chairman Max Schumacher yesterday, I was more interested in the side show at the trade show than MLB trade deals brewing behind closed doors.

Of course, I was expecting to see makers of baseball gloves, rosin, bats, etc. But I wasn’t expecting to see more than a dozen bat manufacturers. Before yesterday, I couldn’t name two batmakers without Louisville in their names. Yesterday I saw batmakers from Canada to Japan. Oh, and one from Indiana, Valpo-based Hoosier Bat Co.

The competition among batmakers was a little surprising, but who knew the bobblehead and foam finger industry was so hotly contested. There was a dealer for everything you can find at a major or minor league ballpark. And I mean everything.

Need a seat, no problem. The show was replete with bleacher and box seat sales booths. Scoreboards too. And not the manual ones. The electronic jobs that ring up a six-figure price tag.

Need a few marketing ideas. How about ads that can be pasted on turnstiles or in the bottoms of cups. Want a back yard that looks like the outfield at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure the booth operators at John Deere or some of the other lawn equipment makers would be glad to give you a tutorial.

Mascot uniforms? There were several manufacturers to chose from. And displays and modeling too.

You want entertainers? The baseball meetings have those on display too. I mean the professional kind. There were San Diego Chicken look-a-likes, a guy who did a nice soft show wearing a pair of nerd glasses and floods, and another who played multiple instruments simultaneously. Now that’s talent.

And the names some of these companies come up with. There’s Sink or Swim Enterprises and my personal favorite, Pointless Products Inc. Now those are names that engender confidence of potential customers and scream “Gotta have it!”

Alas, before you come to the conclusion that it's all fun and games at the winter baseball meetings, one vendor told me his company books more than 55 percent of its business for the year during these four days. And that's a seven-figure sum, he whispered to me, right after asking me not to publish his name. It is indeed a rare time when everyone in minor and major league baseball is in one place at one time.

But my mind kept wondering back to the whiskey. It looked like some of the harried 20-somethings down at the job fair could use a shot. But I’ve never seen whiskey sold or served at any professional sports event I’ve attended. Not even in the media room. And since Ron Artest wasn’t there, I wasn’t sure who the target market was.

But this was no rot gut. Even I could tell that looking at the fancy bottle. I was informed that the good stuff (and apparently the hard stuff) is reserved for the high rollers in exclusive stadium restaurants and luxury boxes—possibly even the owners suites.

Ahhh, I get it. I imagine that offering looks pretty good to some team owners. I’m guessing a shot or two has been tossed back at the conclusion of many a Chicago Cubs season.
 

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  • could use a shot
    It's so cold outside today in Indy, I feel like I could use a shot of something myself. Just to keep warm.
  • Cub fan
    I'm a Cub fan, and I feel like I could use a shot of whiskey most days. I still have nightmares of Billy Buck.
  • replant?
    "The show was replant with bleacher and box seat sales booths."

    I don't understand this sentence. What does "replant" mean?
  • plant again?
    I think it means to plant again, as in, "I really need to replant these marijuana plants." Not sure how that involves bleachers and box seats, however. But what do I know? The world is replete with things I can't quite get a grasp on.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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