Some of the most important people at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville last week were the hotel lobbymen, the folks who spend hours casting about for someone to trade with, swap info with or merely chew the fat with.
"It all starts right here in the lobby," said Director of Player Personnel Gene Mauch of the Angels. Mauch is the most graceful of all lobbymen, shifting almost dancerlike from foot to foot. "That's how you move within range of conversations you want to pick up," he explained. "You also have to know when to talk to people. Some are a.m. guys. Some are p.m. guys. Study how people blink. You can tell if they're telling the truth or lying by how they blink. As a lobbyman, when you stop getting butterflies you know it's time to get out of the game."
"Establishing your territory is the most important thing," said Royals General Manager John Schuerholz as he stood next to a 16-foot Christmas tree made of 400 tiered poinsettias. "If you're always in the same place, people know where to find you. This is my spot."
"Learn to scan the whole lobby by moving only your eyes, never your head," said White Sox Scout Jerry Krause.
"You must have good balance," said Cedric Tallis, veteran baseball executive and now managing director of the Tampa Bay group that's after a major league team. "Your look must be not lascivious, but eager."
"Stamina is essential," said Bob Fontaine, the director of player personnel and scouting for the Giants. "I don't have it this year because I came here with a case of the turista. So I have a new rule: If you must scout in South America, do it after the meetings."
"The first thing that goes on a lobbyman is his knees, so always stand on the carpet, never on the tile or brick," said Peter Bavasi, a former baseball official who is a consultant for a St. Petersburg group in its quest for a franchise. "Lobbymen need an association, a pension plan, special Mizuno shoes, a wing in the Hall of Fame."