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It's early Thursday morning here at Bellagio and baseball's winter meetings have slowed down a bit. There's no crowd around the elevator bank and there are far less reporters in the media room than previous days. Today's the last day of fun with the Rule 5 draft going on and maybe a few more deals to be made.

(No truth to the rumor, though, that the Cubs are towing Jason Marquis around to Vegas pawn shops so they can pull off a Jake Peavy trade before today's "deadline" set by Padres GM Kevin Towers.)

Other than that, we're wrapping things up like a Wii for under the tree. I'm set to cab it over to McCarran in a short while, my wallet just as fat as when I came — no shame in being even steven, I say — and my brain still swirling over what I've witnessed since landing here on Sunday. As you might have been able to tell, I wasn't sure what to expect from the winter meetings. Now, even after four days spent taking it all in, I'm still not exactly sure how to describe it.

I guess the best way to paint the picture is this: Imagine any business conference you've ever been to, mix in a few hundred reporters, dozens of baseball scouts with an affinity for booze-fueled gossip and add one grandstanding super agent. No, it's not quite the place for a blogger who mainly obsesses over things like the hip bump and golden thongs — especially when you're prohibited from taking pictures or video in the casino — but I'm still glad I came to see what they're like. Life experiences and all that.

But hey, I was able to interview Andre Agassi and I also learned a few things along the way, too. My shared knowledge — as well as a Ozzie Guillen paparazzo pic — comes after the jump:

The best reporters use a bit of shoe leather in their reporting: Before I landed in Vegas, I assumed the main 'Net newsbreakers — FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal, SI's Jon Heyman and our own triple-headed Brown-Edes-Passan monster — had some sort of reporting system that was tied into the brainwaves of each GM and agent. I imagined these folks sitting in front of his individual scanner and then translating it into the latest juicy rumor. Of course, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Each successful reporter at the winter meetings uses an incredible combo of knowedge, hustle and relationships built over years, decades and, in the case of Brown and Edes, even centuries to bring us the best of what's going on behind the scenes. 

They also wait around — A LOT: After a month or so break from the day-to-day boredom of standing around clubhouses and batting cages, those reporters expected to break news are welcomed back to that 'hurry up and wait' lifestyle with an endurance test unlike any other. Never knowing when a GM or agent with something to say might be coming or going, the goal is to be omnipresent, even if such a thing is impossible. While lucky folks like myself can retire to the media work room and read all of the gossip updates on MLB Trade Rumors, these patient men and women have no such luxury, seeing as how they want it to be their story that's linked up for the rest of the rumor-mongering baseball public. 

People will come, Ray, if you hold the meetings in Vegas: The most common remark I heard from reporters this week is that they had never seen so many players showing up in person. CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets and Milton Bradley, among many others, all surfaced in Sin City at various times. There's nothing quite like mixing business with pleasure and it's obvious that no one minded sacrificing a few days, even if it meant rubbing elbows with management. Heck, even Derek Jeter showed up in Vegas to help promote the World Baseball Classic. Think The Captain lends a hand if he has to travel to Indianapolis, where the meetings are behind held in '09?  I'm betting not even a trip to St. Elmo's with Peyton Manning would get No. 2 to spend the jet fuel. 

As always, the hotel bar is the place to be:  After a long day of meeting in hotel rooms and burning up cell phone minutes, many of the GMs, agents, media and players met at the large bar in Bellagio's casino to tip back a few and engage in some serious B.S. That there were numerous places to wager money didn't seem to matter — I only spotted Terry Francona and Ellis Burks actually gambling (at the $10 tables, no less!). Conversations and catching up seemed to be priority No. 1 and it was something to come across sights like Tommy Lasorda and Ozzie Guillen jawing back and forth on Tuesday night.

By the way, that dynamic duo was only broken up when a bold woman split the crowd, yelled "Ozzie, I love you!" and demanded to have her picture taken (above). "This isn't going to end up on Facebook, is it?" Ozzie asked her. Well, not quite ...  

Baseball writers really enjoy In-N-Out: Wait, I already knew this. 

Big League Stew readers are unreliable when it comes to gambling advice: On Monday, I asked you for a few baseball-related roulette numbers to bet. And last night, after watching Stew contributor Nick Friedell put on a blackjacking clinic, I walked up to the wheel and placed bets on all of the following numbers — 0, 10, 17, 18 and 26. The ball ended up landing on 30, which made me wonder why no one told me to bet on the total of MLB teams or why no Reds fans got a bit nostalgic and told me to bet The Kid's digits.

Ah, well, easy come, easy go.

(And with that, I'm headed back to the snow.)

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