Being a baseball player is simple. You show up to the field and play. Yet, the true ingredients of a spring baseball game are mixed together in the dead of winter. In early January, the Yawkey Baseball League of Boston held their initial winter meetings, and I got a sneak peek inside.
In early January, the Yawkey Baseball League of Boston held their initial winter meetings for the 2013 season at Freeport Tavern in Dorchester. It was a Tuesday night, and there was to be a Board Meeting at 6:30PM, followed by a Manager Meeting. I arrived half an hour early. Teddy Dziuba of the Somerville Alibrandis was already inhaling a cheeseburger, while AJ Bucciarelli was working a spreadsheet on his laptop. I sat between them, grabbed a beer, and engaged in some baseball small talk. It was more refreshing than the Sam Adams.
Pre-Game: The Board Meeting
When the board meeting commenced, other than league finances, there was only one topic of discussion – review of a new team application.
Following the 2012 season, one team was not invited back due to poor performance on the field and a lack of financial stability. That left a vacancy, and the West Roxbury Nationals were the top candidate. Reps from the team stood in the center of a boardroom and delivered their presentation. Of their 24-man roster, 13 were from Boston – and with more than 51% of the roster as Boston residents, the team qualified for discounted resident rates for field permits. They had access to Ruane Field in Canton, not being fully dependent on the league for fields. And Partners Healthcare had already committing to sponsor them for $4,500 – about half of what the team would need as season operating expenses. The Board recommended the team be accepted to the league, though membership would need to confirm via vote to make it official.
First Pitch: The Manager Meeting
League president and newly enshrined league Hall of Famer, Dave McKay, called the meeting to order. McKay explained how the league has “done a lot of streamlining and purposeful changes,” and that there were “main events that put us on the map last year. We have to expand our league beyond a 33-game schedule to all-star games, banquets, golf tourneys, and increase the brotherhood of the league. It is the little things that become big things in people’s lives.”
Batting #1: New Team Application Report and Vote
League Vice President, Joe O’Hara, stepped up.
“When any team approaches us to join the league, we do an initial interview to look at rosters, financials and more. The team gives a presentation and is drilled with questions. Do they have permits for fields, is the team viable. If approved, a vote is passed to membership.”
The Nats presented again, and then managers voted while Nats leadership waited in the bar. When they were invited back in, they received their news. The West Roxbury Nationals were in.
Batting #2: All-Star Games
Last season, the Yawkey League put together four All-Star Teams. They played a game at LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, Single A affiliate to the Boston Red Sox. They entered a team into the Eastern Mass All-Star Classic versus the Cranberry, Intercity and Park leagues. They faced the U.S. Military All-Stars. And of course, they played an historic game at Fenway Park.
The league agreed that if they played at Fenway, they no longer needed to play at LeLacheur and could save $2,500. They also agreed to continue play against the US Military, despite the cost of paying lodging expenses for this traveling national team.
“If we don’t play them, somebody else will. It might as well be us,” McKay chimed in. He continued to state “league events must be assets and not liabilities,” and promised that “at the next meeting, I will provide a list of events and the amount each is worth as a sponsorship. If a team gets a corporate sponsor, they can get 15-20% back to put toward their team’s baseball expenses. Surely we have enough smart men who are college graduates who can get sponsors.”
For future consideration, a Home Run Derby was also proposed by Eric Bellavia of the East Boston Knights to be played at Frazier Field in Lynn.
Batting #3: Financial Report
Total expenses for the Yawkey League are just under $125,000, of which $50,000 is paid for through a Yawkey Trust grant. At the time of the meeting, the grant had yet to come through for the 2013 season due to pending paperwork.
I whispered to Dakota Happas of the Brighton Minutemen: “What happens if the grant doesn’t go through?” He whispered back that the grant had increased in recent years, so he expected the league to be safe.
Umpires accounted for the league’s largest expense, representing nearly 38% of league costs. About 20% of expenses cover various equipment, meetings and stipends. Baseballs and field permits collectively accounted for another 17% of expenses.
What I found most interesting was that league events other than baseball contributed the final 25% of expenses, covering the league banquet, golf tourney, and raffle.
McKay explained: “We are not just the Yawkey League that goes between the white lines. We are a men’s fraternity.” It was pointed out that these extra-curricular activities lead to 40% of revenue generation by the organization.
Batting #4: Golf Tourney
As a key revenue driver for the league, a concern was that the annual golf fundraiser at President’s Club in Quincy had traditionally been played on the south shore on a Monday. It was discussed whether a north shore location on a Friday might draw a larger crowd, and more funding. No decisions were made.
Batting #5: Fields & Permits
League secretary, Dave Treska, explained that permit applications were due to the City by February 1, so he needed to learn what permits teams already had on their own. He conveyed “the league reimburses teams up to the cost of a City of Boston permit if a team is able to get their own permit outside of Boston.”
Treska also inquired whether teams such as Stoneham or Medford could get any 6PM games to avoid light expenses. While the Yawkey doesn’t traditionally play at that early hour, “the Intercity League does, so it’s not impossible.”
It was also pointed out that if teams had requests for days off due to weddings or other events, they let the league know straight away. McKay pointed out: “We are accommodating, to a point.”
Batting #6: Franchise Contract Agreement Signing
As something new for 2013, all managers were required to sign a contract, reaffirming their commitment to the league.
Dave McKay explained: “This is about baseball. It’s about fun. The objective is quality amateur baseball. But we also have the business side. To make this work, we need to have a contract. Nothing is on here that isn’t already in the rules and regulations.”
For instance, financially, there are stipulations that teams are charged a $100 for each month their membership dues are late, will commit to sell thirteen $100 raffle tickets for a $10,000 drawing, and will purchase at least 20 tickets to the Hall of Fame Awards Banquet. On the field, it is agreed that teams will not recruit from other YBL teams, that scores will be reported immediately following games, and that teams will abide by the league Code of Ethics.
Every team signed before they left the meeting, and there was not one complaint.
Batting #7: Tournament Proposal
Carl Rodriguez of the South Boston Astros talked about a pre-season tourney his team was hoping to host over Patriot’s Day Weekend.
Batting #8: Team Assessment and Report
Going around the table, each manager reported on the state of their team. Dana Levensaler of the Brighton Minutemen thanked the league for working with the city to fix lights after a player was hit with a pitch in the neck at a dimly lit field.
Smokey Moore of the Malden Bulldogs chimed in to point out that contrary to rumors of their team folding, they would indeed be back another year.
Team after team after team talked about all the collegiate (and occasional former professional) athletes they hoped to bring in for the 2013 season.
Batting #9: Closing it Out
With all the baseball planning taking place in January, I left the meeting barely able to wait for Spring. I stepped out of the box and headed home.