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Fall Business Meetings Journal Day Three: It's Knight Time

November 9, 2023

This week, Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Billy Harner will be sharing a daily blog entry from the road, as members of the front office staff attend the Major League Baseball Fall Business Meetings at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. Wednesday was the final day of Major League

This week, Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Billy Harner will be sharing a daily blog entry from the road, as members of the front office staff attend the Major League Baseball Fall Business Meetings at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV.

Wednesday was the final day of Major League Baseball’s Fall Winter Meetings in Las Vegas…which was probably a good thing because my voice sounds like Charles Barkley on night two of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

The day got started with a Keynote Address from Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operations & Strategy Officer. Most of his presentation was more relevant to MLB than MiLB but there were still some interesting nuggets:

  • Major League Baseball’s Average time of Game was down 30 minutes from 2022 and back to the same level as 1985.
  • 91% of ticket scans across all of MLB were digital in 2023. In 2018, it was 24%
  • 3 million fans received tickets forwarded from other fans. 5 million fans received tickets as the primary ticket purchaser and 4.7 million fans received tickets via the secondary market (StubHub, SeatGeek, etc).
  • MLB rolled out facial recognition for entry in certain markets and it make entry to the ballpark 68% quicker.

My 9-year-old son will probably be an intern for the Cyclones before some of this technology reaches the Minor Leagues, but nevertheless I thought it was interesting.

One concept coming in 2024 that may be of interest to us Minor League folks is the introduction of the Spring Breakout Game. Tentatively the Mets version of this will be on March 14th in Tampa against the Yankees. The concept is that each MLB team will showcase their Top 30 (ish) Prospects in a single game against another clubs Top 30 Prospects. Sort of like an organizational Futures Game. So you’d get to see guys like Jett Williams, Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert play alongside guys like Colin Houck and Marco Vargas. Seems like a pretty cool concept and a great way to showcase some of the big-time talent across Minor League Baseball. They also talked about expanding the Home Run Derby X Program (which I guess I missed out on when it was happening) due to massive success in MiLB Parks this summer. It’s a home run derby that features retired MLB Stars along side local contestants. They sold out the event with the Fred Nats and a few other spots. Seemed like a lot of fun…maybe we’ll be a stop in the future and we can get King Henry to take some cuts.

Next up was a breakout session highlighting some of the best theme night / promotions across MiLB. I was one of the speakers for this session and captivated the audience with tales of Seinfeld Night Success (well, at least nobody fell asleep). Other teams involved in the session talked about things like ways they made Opening Night more special, Sitcom Night – a salute to all of our favorite shows, A Night with Bad Promotions (this was a fun idea), and some best practices for some of MiLB’s initiatives with Copa and The Nine. A fun discovery during this session came from the Hartford Yard Goats who created an alternate identity known as the Bouncing Pickles. What the heck does that mean? Well I’m glad you asked. Apparently in the state of Connecticut in the 1940s there were some people who were trying to pass off cucumbers as pickles…tale as old as time right? So the Nutmeg State thought this was a big DILL (sorry, had to do it) and created a law that if your emerald log of sour goodness didn’t bounce when dropped, it was not allowed to be called a pickle. So the Hartford Yard Goats created a new identity with this featuring a pickle on a pogo stick.

The next session for the day was outside events / community events to generate revenue on non-game days mostly. There were some great ideas that came out of this too (shocking I know). Food fests, tequila tests, LOTS of Holiday Light shows, Family Fun Days (sort of like a block party on a baseball field), an Influencer Event for food tasting at the ballpark that featured a Flaming Hot Cheetos Crusted Corndog, and much more. One of the clubs that talked about their Christmas Lights show said they used about $600,000 worth of lights for the event. That would make even the houses in Dyker Heights jealous.

The final session of the event for me was talking about the do’s and don’ts of on-field uniforms and caps. So not very interesting for most of you, but was super helpful for me as we start planning for 2024 and beyond. One cool take away was that if we ever wanted to do a throwback night to the Queens Kings (the Cyclones before the Cyclones existed way back in 2000) we have the rights to do that. So that may be a cool idea for 2025 to celebrate their 25th anniversary. All of the alternate identities that teams have – like our Coney Island Franks and Brooklyn Amazins – have really taken off. Back in the day when the Cyclones became the Baracklyn Cyclones to celebrate the newly-elected president, we were the first team in MiLB to do an “alternate identity” and in 2024 there will be more than 240 across Minor League Baseball.

After the meetings ended for the day a bunch of us nerds in the baseball industry who love game presentation headed over to T-Mobile Arena to see the Vegas Golden Knights game. The stuff they do is WILD. There was a drum line, a dance team, traditional Vegas Show Girls behind the glass trying to distract the visiting teams. Then the pre-game introductions were beyond next level. They have a Knight mascot come out on skates and fight a dragon that is projected onto the ice in a scripted battle. The whole thing was just an amazing to see. It was like a 5 minute “show” before the game even started.

After the game ended it was a quick turnaround as we headed to the airport bright and early to get back to NYC. Lots of good stuff came out of this week in Las Vegas and I’m excited to get back and find way to implement some of these new concepts into our 2024 season…

  • Billy