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I've been a baseball fan my whole life, closely monitoring trades and free-agent signings all year round. Of course when you're a Yankee fan you really need to watch free-agent activity. For years, I've heard about the "Winter Meetings," the annual gathering of baseball executives, scouts, agents and personnel where many of the offseason deals get done. I'm getting ready to attend and report on my first-ever baseball Winter Meetings, which start on Monday and run through Thursday in Orlando, Fla.
What goes on at these mysterious meetings? I've always pictured dimly lit smoke-filled rooms where baseball executives sit around and make deals. Picture a poker game, with baseball cards instead of playing cards. Baseball executive No. 1: "How about Albert Pujols?" Baseball executive No. 2: "Are you crazy? Albert is off the table. We can discuss Colby Rasmus." This continues for hours until a deal gets done and the executives emerge from the room. As soon as they walk out of the room, they are bombarded with questions from the reporters waiting outside, who pounce like wild cheetahs on their prey. "Is there a deal?" "Who got traded?" The reporters then scurry away back to their rooms to file the story. In my vision, all the reporters are men wearing those great classic newspaper reporter hats from movies like His Girl Friday.
I don't think that is what the Winter Meetings are really like, but it was still fun to come up with that picture. What do I really envision about the four days of deal making, meetings, networking and story stalking? A little bit of everything I just mentioned and a lot that I can't even imagine right now. I'm excited to experience it personally and look forward to all of you being along for the ride.
Here are a few quick thoughts (some serious, some not so) on what I'm expecting at this year's Winter Meetings:
• The Yankees to sign free-agent shortstop Derek Jeter to a three-year, $51 million deal with a player option for a fourth, and incentives which could result in a contract worth a total of $65 million over four years. What's that? That already happened? Oh well then never mind. Confession time: there was a small part of me that was looking forward to the Derek Jeter Saga continuing into the Winter Meetings, just so I could experience the buzz of the deal amid all the meeting frenzy. Of course I'm delighted he's back in pinstripes. I just don't want him leading off.
• Hundreds of men mulling about the lobby of the hotel, chatting on cell phones and emailing on their blackberries. Constantly. I really do picture the Winter Meetings as a giant gathering of guys. (No, I'm not going because of that.) Baseball has come a long way in terms of women as reporters and on the business side, but it's still primarily a sport dominated by men in the media and management. In fact, I am the only female in the ESPN.com baseball army heading to Orlando. I'm hoping to complement their outstanding reporting with stories of things behind the scenes that you might not hear about. If I break some news along the way, even better.
• Speaking of women in baseball, there certainly are some who work in the media and with teams at the major and minor league level. I'll be attending the Working Women in Baseball event on Wednesday. It's a networking and leadership development seminar for women working in baseball at the team or league level. I'm going to recap the event and tell the stories of the women I meet along the way (have FlipCam, will travel). I'm really excited about attending this event and bringing it to light. I can't wait to share the stories of the women who work behind the scenes and how they got there.
• Media madness when news breaks. I probably exaggerated my vision of the pack of wild cheetahs attacking, but I am looking forward to the first big signing or trade of the meetings. Two years ago, the Yankees' deal with CC Sabathia happened during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Could the Yankees sign Cliff Lee this week? This is me, being a greedy Yankee fan, but oh how I want Cliff Lee on my team!!! Whether it's Cliff Lee or another major franchise-type player who signs or gets dealt, I can't wait to watch what unfolds and how it goes from rumor to fact to story in a matter of moments.
• Lots of standing and waiting around and schmoozing. I'm packing my comfortable shoes (speaking of which, I really need to pack. I hate packing so much I've created my own term for it: apacknaphobia.) I know this sounds a little strange, but I'm looking forward to this aspect of the meetings. I'm a social person and thanks to Twitter, I've gotten to know a lot of people who cover baseball and work in and around the sport, so I'll be able to spend that time catching up with them, picking their brains and also tracking down people to interview. Down time in the news cycle is good news for me. I'll be live tweeting as the days go on, so please follow me there @amandarykoff. Look for the hashtag #orlando, which is what all of ESPN's baseball reporting team will be using throughout the meetings.
• "Lobby rumors." At last year's Winter Meetings, some reporters tweeted about items they had heard which proved ultimately to be false. These weren't just deals that didn't happen; they were deals that made no sense and couldn't have been true. These were dubbed "lobby rumors" because they were created seemingly out of nowhere as people went stir crazy hanging out in the hotel lobby in Indianapolis. What will be this year's lobby rumor? Stay tuned.
• The Rule 5 Draft. The final event of the Winter Meetings is the so-called Rule 5 draft on Thursday. People talk about the draft and I've heard about it for years, but I've never really known exactly what it is, why it was introduced and why it matters. I expect to get answers to all those questions and more and share them with you right here on espnW.com.
• Complete exhaustion. I have no doubt that by the time I leave Orlando on Thursday night, I'll be completely zonked. This is the one thing I expect that I know will happen. And I cannot wait. Bring it on, Orlando. I'm as ready as I'll ever be.