By Eric Fisher, Sports Business Journal
Steel Sports, a California-based company founded and led by hedge fund executive Warren Lichtenstein, is expanding its reach into amateur baseball with recent deals to take over management of the National Youth Baseball Championships and elevating the tournament with a series of new corporate and media partnerships.
The NYBC, formed by Chicago White Sox Vice Chairman Eddie Einhorn and played since 2008, offers larger field dimensions and more adult-style playing rules than Little League and other similar organizations. The tournament recently was played for the second straight year at Steel Sports Academy’s Baseball Heaven complex in Long Island, N.Y., a facility the company bought in 2011. Steel Sports has brought in new corporate partners such as Brita and brand ambassadors and event speakers such as former MLB managers Tommy Lasorda, Dusty Baker and Bobby Valentine.
Similar to prior years, several key games of the tournament will be shown on CBS Sports Network and streamed on MLB.com. Steel Sports has also struck new deals with FloSports and Youth1 Media to increase exposure for the NYBC.
The company is seeking to reverse long-term declines in youth baseball participation, and has sought to create a clear niche for itself with more open regional and national tournaments.
“A lot of other tournaments out there operate strictly from their feeder organizations. We operate more openly, independently, in which anybody in those age groups can play their way in,” said David Shapiro, Steel Sports chief executive.
Steel Sports operates several other sports assets, including a youth soccer training and competition facility in New Jersey. Across the portfolio, the company has sought to increase standardization for training of coaches, similar to how Lichtenstein operates the rest of his holding company.
“At many companies, we have a specific, detailed manual for employees, but there hasn’t been a lot of that in youth coaching,” Lichtenstein said. “We spend a lot of time on double-goal coaching, building wellness and lifelong activity, instead of just win at all costs.”
This article appeared in the August 10 edition of Sports Business Journal.