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From the Winter Meetings

December 12, 2010 - Al Stephenson
I spent last week attending the annual baseball winter meetings in Orlando. This marks the second consecutive year that I have enjoyed being a fly on the wall as baseball's top figures meet to discuss the state of the game. The only reason I have attended the meetings is to accompany my daughter, who is trying to land a full time job in minor league baseball. So far that elusive first job is still avoiding her, but it seems to be getting closer. Over the next few days I will be filing reports on my experiences.

For the most part I was pretty inconspicuous at the gathering as I just sat and listened to baseball people talk baseball. Though there were times when I wanted to chip in on a given converstation, it was not my place to do so. So I sat and absorbed the information that came my way. It was a fun three days and I will enjoy recalling many of the stories that I heard.

One person that I did stop and engage in conversation was a man named Jim Pfander. I met Jim in 2009 when Ashley served as a promotions intern with the Charleston RiverDogs. The beautiful city of Charleston, home to Fort Sumter where the Civil War began, is also home to the New York Yankess Class A affiliate. Ashley loved her stay there, but not just for the city itself. She really enjoyed working with people who were both fun loving and caring. These people have become her friends and you can start with Jim Pfander.

He was the Assistant General Manager in charge of promotions with the RiverDogs when Ashley did her internship and she even shared office space with him. Spending game days on the field as fans were brought down to engage in a variety of activities convinced my daughter that baseball was where she wanted to start a career. Her respect for Pfander and other members of the RiverDogs staff has fueled her dream. As a big time baseball fan, I understand her desire to go to a ballpark for work every day.

I ran into Jim Pfander on the first day of the winter meetings and we stopped for a brief chat. He was on his way to a meeting so the talk was brief. I had a chance to have a lengthier conversation a couple of days later. Jim has a new job and I wanted to find out a little about it. He was recently hired to become the COO of the Akron Aeros of the Eastern League. As he suggested to me, "I always said it would take the right opportunity for me to leave Charleston." A return to his hometown was a big factor in his decision to move.

From the moment I first shook hands with Jim Pfander I felt at ease. A personable outgoing guy, we could have chatted sports for hours had he not had other duties to attend to. At my daughter's request he allowed me to throw out one of the first pitches at a RiverDogs game. He might have set the order a little differently though, as I had to follow a minor league hockey player who threw a 90-mph heater right over the heart of the plate. My lofted changeup was short-hopped by the catcher, but I can look up from my computer and see the baseball as I type. It was a moment I won't soon forget.

As for Jim Pfander, he might be lamenting his change in postitions about now as the snow is flying outside at the moment. Then again, he is an Akron native and he has undoubtedly seen all this before. My guess is that he is ready for springtime and the sound of the bat hitting the ball.

Jim Pfander is a nice guy who knows the game of baseball. He understands the business side of the game as well as the fundamentals of the game itself. The view from my seat would suggest that Jim Pfander will do an excellent job in running the Aeros franchise. I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor.

By the way Jim, I will stop by sometime this summer and we will go to Swenson's for burgers!


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