Business Beat: May 4

Minor league trio looks to make an imprint




KINSTON, N.C.—Randy Newsom's funky, submarine delivery is enough to make him unusual, but something else he does on the side makes the Indians prospect truly stand out among his fellow minor leaguers.

Newsom, a righthanded reliever for high Class A Kinston, is one of three industrious minor leaguers who work together in a business that humbly began during a Carolina League rain delay in 2005.

Newsom, Red Sox outfielder Bryan Pritz and Mariners infielder Brant Ust are the founding owners of an Internet-based embroidery business they run in their spare time. Lacers manufactures custom designed hats, sweatbands, luggage tags and decorative shoe attachments called Lacers—the company's signature product—and sells them on eBay or on the company's Website (lacersonline.com).

The players got the idea for the business when they played together for high Class A Wilmington in the Red Sox organization. Baseball has since sent the players in different directions, but they remain close as their fledgling venture gets off the ground.

"We're making money, but we're not killing it," said Newsom, 23, who holds a degree in economics and history from Tufts (Mass.) University. "It's not enough to quit baseball, but it's worthwhile. It's more that we can see it down the road becoming something, maybe, on a major scale."

Pritz, who plays for Double-A Portland, handles production. The 24-year-old, who has a degree in marketing from Richmond, keeps an 80-pound embroidering machine in his apartment.

Newsom, who was the MVP of the Carolina League championship series last season, and Ust, a 28-year-old Notre Dame graduate, handle sales, marketing and customer service.

The players/entrepreneurs juggle their business responsibilities with their baseball careers. They often pass on card games with teammates between batting practice and games to check e-mail and process orders.

"I've always been interested in business and starting my own company," Pritz said. "With baseball being there, I couldn't really start anything big, so this was perfect. It was something small enough where we could try to make a little extra money."

The idea for the Lacers product—which is embroidered with a symbol, lettering or logo of the customer's choice and attached over shoelaces—came on a rainy night in Winston-Salem, N.C. Utz, who now plays for Triple-A Tacoma, was wearing an early version of the product that an equipment manager at Notre Dame had given him.

Pritz used a contact in the leather business to make samples and showed them off to teammates. The business was up and running by October 2005. Now the players take orders from entire teams, ranging from Little League to college, often 50 at a time at $12 each.

"We can't produce them quick enough," Newsom said.

—DAVID HALL
Kinston Free Press

Spring Cleaning

Opening Day around the minor leagues served as an opportunity for several teams to show off new looks to their ballparks after an offseason of renovations.

In an effort to give spacious Rosenblatt Stadium—home of the College World Series—a more intimate feel, the Omaha Royals (Pacific Coast) have reduced the 24,000-seat stadium's capacity to 9,441 for most of the season. The Royals closed off the upper rows of sections in the middle of the grandstand, and covered all outfield bleachers and the first- and third-base sides of the grandstand.

PCL partner Tacoma was set to show off new graphics on the Cheney Stadium's facade, designed to increase the overall appeal of the stadium as part of $2.5 million in renovations. The California League's Lake Elsinore Storm unveiled several improvements this spring, including a ticket-scanning system at the gate, potted palm trees around the stadium and a new video board.

QUICK HITS

• Stat Crew Software, which provides the automated statistical software used by just about every college baseball program was purchased by CBS and CSTV. The company announced in a release with its added resources will focus efforts on "next-generation scoring software."

• Renovations to Visalia's 60-year-old stadium will add $6 million to the expected $5 million budget. The increased price tag is a result of the existing foundation's inability to support a new grandstand, the Tulare (Calif.) Advance-Register reported.