Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go

A life size Chipper Jones bobble head doll was among the items available at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Major league general managers came to Disney World this week looking for players at the winter meetings. Minor league GMs found themselves searching for deals, too, stocking up on bobbleheads, outfield padding and all sorts of items for next season.

Need some Diamond Dust to dry the infield following a summer rain? No problem. A batting cage, or a video scoreboard or even someone to design a stadium? Easy.

Hundreds of booths were open for business at the Baseball Trade Show, a subterranean warehouse one floor below the hotel lobby where baseball executives from all pro levels gathered.

”It is like an all-you-eat buffet of promotions items, staff apparel, gear, mascot costume dealers,” Class A Tampa Tarpons general manager Vance Smith said Wednesday. ”It’s one-stop shopping for minor league operators.”

Smith kept coming back, looking all three days. He had a good reason: On Monday, his New York Yankees affiliate in the Florida State League changed its name from Yankees to Tarpons.

”It was triple the visits I normally do every year,” Smith said. ”We need new gear. All the gear we’ve had in the past, it has to be replaced.”

There were plenty of goodies destined for fans on giveaway nights – T-shirts, hats, squeezable water bottles and a lot more. On display was a Chipper Jones bobblehead with a Braves logo, perfect for any Atlanta farm club.

And there were some things for players, too. There was Home Run Licorice, a substitute for chewing tobacco. It comes in multiple favors, including raspberry, and there boxes on the shelf ready to move.

”The players love it,” said Andre Chiaveli, sounding like a carnival barker as he cut up samples for potential customers.

Minor League Baseball said normally 69 percent of the attendees who buy something at the annual show purchase promotional products and giveaway items.

Radar guns, ring makers and peanut sellers also were represented, available to a steady flow of customers who walked by.

Like many of the big league general managers, Smith didn’t complete any deals. He did, however, set the foundation for trading later this offseason.