The Baseball Winter Meetings are beginning in Indianapolis on Monday, so as a resident of the Circle City, I figured I'd attempt to give everyone a quick primer on the meetings, which run through Thursday, culminating in the Rule 5 Draft (this does not count as an excuse to rehash the Josh Hamilton discussion, however).The first question I'm sure most of you are asking is, "Why Indianapolis?" To be honest, I have no idea (ok, I do know, but the story isn't that interesting, to be honest. If you want to know, just ask). It's 21 degrees here as I write this and the long-range forecast does not look much better. The Winter Meetings have not been held this far north since 1966, and I'm sure after spending a December in Indianapolis, the front offices of most teams will be looking forward to the 2010 Winter Meetings in Orlando.
Secondly, I'm sure you are wondering, "Hey, Indianapolis isn't too far away. Is this a good chance to see Lou, Jim and my favorite Cubs' front office personnel?" In actuality, no. The Winter Meetings are closed to the public (genius PR move by MLB there), so unless you feel like stalking a few hotel bars, steak houses and the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center, then I can't truly recommend the trek to Indianapolis (from Wrigley, it's about 3 hours to downtown Indianapolis, especially on the I-65 Motor Speedway).
Aside from free-agent signings and trades (I wonder if either Chone Figgins or Roy Halladay will be forced to leave their warm-weather homes to come to Indy for a press conference), there is a baseball trade show (closed to the public) and a job fair (you can attend if you want to pay $250 at the door) as well. And while I heard that the Rule 5 Draft will be open to the public (the 83-year old chairman of the Indianapolis Indians indicated it while on radio yesterday), I sincerely doubt that it is.
With this in mind, if you do decide to visit Indianapolis in an attempt to find Jim Hendry at the Marriott and convince him to trade Milton Bradley for a bucket of baseballs, then welcome. Here are a few places to visit, eat and shop while you're in Indy:
First, eateries (in the interest of keeping this baseball-related, I'll attempt to select places where you might see some baseball personnel).
- St. Elmo's - Indianapolis' best and most famous steakhouse, it's been around since 1902. It's pricey, but the bar is a great place to sit and people watch. Plus, the shrimp cocktail is one of the best (and spiciest) in America. This is probably spot number 1 if you want to see baseball people.
- Harry & Izzy's - St. Elmo's sister restaurant is right next door to St. Elmo's. Cheaper prices and a slightly different menu (steakburgers), it also has a lively bar scene that might attract baseball people.
- Mo's - another steakhouse. (Honestly it's what Indianapolis has to offer). It's further from the main hotels than St. Elmo's, which might make it a less-likely spot to find baseball people, but I have a feeling they'll be there.
- Ambrosia Centro - one of a few Italian eateries in downtown Indianapolis. It just opened a month ago, but is based on a highly-successful restaurant on Indianapolis' north side. When the baseball people tire of steak, they might venture here for the dimly-lit atmospher.
- Amici's - the second Italian restaurant on the list; it has been a favorite of media types during the Final Four, so I could see this being one of their go-to spots again.
- The Oceannaire - Probably the best seafood restaurant in town, they fly just about everything in fresh, day-of. For desert, have the Baked Alaska. It's either here or McCormick and Schmick's for solid seafood (unless you want sushi).
- The Old Spaghetti Factory - no, it's not a steakhouse.
- Mikado - Japanese steakhouse. If you want sushi, head here.
- The Ram/Alcatraz Brewing Co./Palomino/P.F. Chang's/Ruth's Chris - The first two options are more of styled-up burgers and their own microbrews; they'll both cheaper than the first four restaurants above, too. The last three are chains, and solid choices, but definitely not where I'd look first to hob-nob with baseball personnel.
Here are some places to grab a drink, either before of after dinner:
- Nicky Blaine's - This is not a restaurant. It's a "cocktail lounge," which means they specialize in martini's and fine cigars. It's smoky (smoking is allowed in bars in Indianapolis, so long as they only allow people over 21 in), but you'll be able to people-watch here; even if you don't see any baseball folks, you'll have fun.
- (Downtown has plenty of bars to choose from; Nicky Blaine's and the Slippery Noodle Inn are probably the most mature bars downtown. As mentioned above, both The Ram and Alcatraz brew their own beer, too.)
- (If you want to venture outside Downtown, head North. More bars and restaurants are that way - bars in Broad Ripple. Higher end restaurants at 82nd and Keystone.)
Now, since you can't actually attend the Meetings, you'll probably need something to do during the day. Circle Center Mall is smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and you can wrap up plenty of Christmas shopping there.
If you want to see some more sporting venues, both Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the mediocre Pacers, and Lucas Oil Stadium are downtown. The Pacers host Portland on Wednesday night (and I assure you that tickets will still be available) if you want to catch some NBA; the Colts are at home on Sunday, Dec. 6, and the 13th, if you want to stay in town. Tickets can be hard to find, but Lucas Oil, along with Conseco, are two of the nicest venues in America to watch their respective sports.
Baseball more your style (of course it is)? Victory Field is in the heart of downtown, too; home of the Indianapolis Indians, it is just west of the Convention Center. The Indians have had several Hall of Famers come through Indianapolis, including Harmon Killebrew and Al Lopez. Walk around the Vic and see why it was once rated as "The Best Minor League Ballpark in America," about eight years ago.
Lastly, head out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (you'll need to find a bus schedule or cab; cabs are plentiful, so just take one). Even if you don't like racing, you'll appreciate the scale of IMS - on the last Sunday in May, it turns into the single-largest, single-day spectator event in the world, with somewhere between 250-300,000 people gathering for the Indianapolis 500. It just turned 100, and the centennial 500 is coming up in 2011; before the Pacers, Colts, and everything else rolled into Indianapolis, this was the engine that drove much of the industry in Indianapolis.
Note that Indianapolis does not have a central transportation system, like the El. Buses, taxis and car rentals (or friends in town) are the only way to get outside of downtown Indianapolis. I can't recommend our bus system, but cabs are easy to find, and you generally don't have to call ahead to secure one.
With that, welcome to Indianapolis. Enjoy the Winter Meetings. Enjoy reading writers complain about the cold (and know that their hotels are connected to the Convention Center, so they don't have to go outside, necessarily). And let's hope that Trader Jim was just getting warmed up with the Fox/Miles deal.