Attending Winter Warm-Up as a fan? Good stuff. Attending Winter Warm-Up as a member of the media? Not so much. Consider this both a primer for people getting credentialed for the first time and a cautionary tale about the drawbacks of actually being a somewhat responsible media adult.
The Cardinals are kind enough to bestow the honor of credentialing for WWU upon up to three UCB members each year. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a bit like what I imagine juggling small bags of dog poop would be like. Your experience is way more amusing to everyone else than it is to you. If you are going for the first time as a credentialed media-type person, here are a few tidbits about my experience that may help (or not).
- To get the full experience, you’ll need to set your out-of-office for Saturday through the following Monday. Last year Yadier Molina teleported into the building about 30 seconds before he was scheduled to appear, and he used the Time Stone to leave before people realized he had left. He was also at the very end of the WWU schedule.
- I can’t recommend staying at the Hyatt enough. WWU is held there, and having a room means you don’t have to deal with driving in early and leaving late. You also don’t necessarily need a camel to carry all your stuff around.
- Find someone staying at the Hyatt and ask if you can borrow the bathroom. You’ll thank me later.
- Consider staying at the Hyatt from Friday night through Monday afternoon. It’s reasonably priced for a downtown hotel, and Ruth’s Chris restaurant is totally fine with you ignoring their dress code policy by wearing sweatpants and a Birds on the Black hoodie when you dine.
- Memorize the business hours for the Starbucks in the hotel. I believe it was open 6:00am – 7:00pm every day, but that was a while ago, and I’ve slept since then.
- Work in conjunction with everyone you can but especially with the other UCBers. It’s tempting to sit in a small, crowded, unimaginably warm room for the player interviews just to ask a question or two, but it’s silly for all three stooges to be there simultaneously for each one. Split up, divide and conquer the transcription work, and bribe people if necessary.
- Get out and see people. I highly recommend taking a camera for your field trips into the main hall, and I also highly recommend being respectfully pushy about it. You don’t want to slow anyone down, and you definitely don’t want to negatively impact people who have paid good money to have 15 seconds of interaction with a baseball player, but you also don’t want to be standing around like an idiot waiting for the perfect moment. Get in, apologize profusely even if it’s not necessary, snap a bunch of shots in burst mode, and then hope for the best as you make a hasty exit.
- Seek out the players nobody has heard of. They are most likely spending their spare time interacting awkwardly with volunteers, and they’ll welcome the opportunity to talk about themselves. I did this with JAG, Drew Robinson, Justin Williams, and Ryan Helsley last year. Williams was absolutely great, and he was very forthcoming about his hand injury and the television that brutally attacked him to cause said injury. Good times.
- Plan ahead for food. Other than Jim Hayes sneaking entire trays of food out of the corporate sponsor green room, you won’t have access to anything decent. Put together a pizza order with others or consider a group Grubhub collective. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get hungry to try and find nourishment.
- Don’t overdress for the event. The media room is warm, and the interview room is worse. I wore khakis with a nice button down shirt and was completely overdressed.
- Take the opportunity to talk to the media pros. They’ve got absolutely fabulous stories that you’ll never be able to repeat to anyone, and having new audience members is like sending substitutes into a sequestered jury. They all want news of the outside world.
- If you enjoy consuming water in liquid form, consider carrying some with you. There are some beverages provided, but you’ll find more ice in your average desert. It’s probably that whole “room kept at a constant 115 degrees” thing.
- Prepare your questions before players arrive and keep in mind that the media pros will be asking many of the same questions of each player. What did you do this off-season to improve for this season? How do you explain your performance in <insert arbitrary period of time here>? What do you think of the Cardinals not really trying to get Nolan Arenado but letting people think they were actually trying to get Nolan Arenado? Be different while still be professional. A few players care about axis tilt and spin rate. A few players care about swing plane and swing mechanics. Most players are just shaking the rust off after an awesome vacation somewhere not-St Louis.
- Act like a pro or “fake it until you make it” depending on how motivated you are. My primary goal at WWU was to ask stupid questions, but my secondary goal was to not embarrass myself or the bloggers as a whole. The bloggers do enough of that without my help anyway. Be cordial, punctual, factual, and professional. Don’t be a jerk by going around waving your elite platinum frequent flyer status in front of fans.
- Make the most of your time. You are getting an experience that few people get without a lot of really hard work and one that many fans would pay to have. Then go off 4-5 months without writing about it, because relevancy isn’t a big deal or anything.
Almost to 1000 words which means I’m quickly encroaching on @C70 territory. Sorry, not sorry.
Here is where I explain that it’s not all rainbows, unicorns, and hair flips.
- This is real work for media professionals and mostly just bucket list thing for the rest of us. Don’t impede them, and it’s likely that they’ll be accommodating to you. That may mean waiting for a definitive lull in the interview process or even the very end of it to ask your question(s). So be it.
- The media and interview rooms are really, really warm.
- You’ll probably encounter Fredbird at some point, and mascot are just incredibly creepy. Carry mace. Not the spray stuff but an actual mace.
- If you don’t stay at the Hyatt, you’ll have to find parking at a time when literally half of the fandom is trying to find parking. Good luck with that.
- The weather isn’t beholden to you or anyone else. We experienced something like 14′ of solid ice or something like that. Actually, it might’ve just been some snow. Regardless, normally reasonable adults lose their minds when driving in snow flurries. And we’re the apex species or whatever. Sure.
- The “workdays” are really long. I was up by 6:00am and just polishing off a 2nd (or possibly 8th) adult beverage around midnight. It’s not that you actually need to be awake that early or stay up that late, but you’ll probably do both anyway. It’s fun in a “wish I hadn’t done that” kind of way.
- Not everyone is John Brebbia. Brebbia absolutely brought it during his time at the podium. Same for Jose Martinez. Most of the interviews are plain vanilla except for Goldschmidt who was somehow even more plain than regular plain vanilla. It’s okay to yawn just as long as you are not in view of the cameras lined up in the back of the room.
- If you don’t have a dedicated recording device, you may need a second and even a third phone. Or you could just bring an external battery to charge your phone after you record a ton of video that you won’t use. Access to electricity via outlets is about what you would expect in a third world country. It’s there, but everyone is fighting for it.
- It’s really hard to know when it’s safe to walk away from the media area. Some players show up before they have to sign, some show up after they sign, and some just apparate into the room with zero warning. If you are lucky, you may have a couple minutes warning. If not, then you’ll probably see Andrew Miller ducking as he walks through the wrong door.
- Transcribing interviews takes a lot of effort. You can dedicate hours to the cause, or you can just beg, borrow, and steal. The media pros split up a lot of that work, and there is no harm in asking to cheat off their homework.
- Asking really stupid questions is frowned upon. Trust me on this. It’s almost like people expect adulting to happen even when I’m there.
- You may have a run-in with Dan Buffa’s biceps, because he’s far too muscular to fit through a normal hallway. Apply ice immediately to minimize bruising/swelling.
- Posting as much quality content as you can during and right after WWU is a challenge. Imagine what it’s like for the pros with deadlines and actual expectations. I typed out roughly 400 words during a brief respite on Saturday of WWU and then fell into a fugue state for 45 minutes.
- It’s a unique experience but really isn’t what I would consider “fun”. It’s like taking your kids to Disney World – do it once just because and never do it again because you’ve already checked that box.
If anyone needs a hotel recommendation for WWU, I’ve got you covered.