ORLANDO, Fla. — Like a rapidly spreading fire, word began to circulate Wednesday through the crowded lobby of the Dolphin Hotel at baseball’s winter meetings. General managers, scouting directors and at least one owner had heard the news and were eager to see if it was true.
What seized their curiosity was not the fast-developing Carl Crawford signing or speculation over Cliff Lee’s future. Instead it came from the bowels of the hotel, where a trade show booth was demonstrating a product that could revolutionize scouting and coaching.
Steve Goody, the chief executive of Pocket Radar, a new company that developed a radar gun the size of an iPhone, was trying to keep up with the mushrooming demand. One by one, executives, including Frank Wren, general manager of the Atlanta Braves; Bill Singer, the Washington Nationals’ director of pro scouting; representatives of the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins; and even Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Florida Marlins, stopped by.
“What team are you with?” Goody said before being told he was speaking to a reporter and not a team employee. “Oh, sorry. I think all but about five teams have been down here in the last couple of hours. It’s been pretty crazy.”
The Pocket Radar booth was but one exhibit in the vast winter meetings trade show, an annual event showcasing virtually every item, concept or product associated with professional baseball.
If you need a scoreboard or synthetic turf, a batting glove or a hot dog, it can be found there. If you need a dancing mascot or an ATM, it is also there. Pitching machines, chafing powder, tarpaulins, T-shirts and souvenirs, and restroom cleaning products can be found among the exhibits.
Some products, like bats and gloves, are as old as the game itself. More cutting-edge concepts like Pocket Radar may be destined to affect the game.
For all the money spent on players during the winter meetings, it might have been possible to spend more at the trade show, where Populous (formerly HOK) offered to design a stadium for several million dollars.
And everything needed to outfit it, whether a hat or a pocket-size radar gun, could be found at the booths nearby.
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