Steve Sclafani always dreamed of a career in the big leagues. As a star second baseman--first at his Columbia (Md.) high school, then at the University of Pennsylvania--he thought he might have a shot. But the pro scouts thought otherwise. So Sclafani put aside his glove and stepped up to the plate as an entrepreneur.
Now 29, Sclafani (left) still has one foot on the playing field. His six-year-old company, Baseball Factory--founded with former teammate Rob Naddelman, 27--specializes in getting high school players onto college teams. They do it by holding "showcase" games in stadiums nationwide, where talented youngsters perform for college coaches. Coaches unable to attend receive videotapes of the players with evaluations written by Major League scouts, who consult for Baseball Factory. The Ellicott City (Md.)-based company also offers tutoring and training camps with former pros. Sclafani, the CEO, boasts that about 90% of his clients win spots on college teams, more than two-thirds of them with scholarship money. "I knew personalized recruiting would work," he says. Most players--who pay between $200 to $2,500, depending on the level of training--are referred by their coaches and represent the cream of the nation's high schools. In 1999, Baseball Factory worked with about 2,500 kids, grossing $700,000. This year, COO Naddelman expects 4,000 kids and $2.5 million in sales.
Baseball Factory is not the only showcase company. But it has managed to sign up pro scouts, ex-college coaches, and retired pros, winning it credibility. "If they tell you a guy can play, he can play," says Brian Kemp, assistant coach at High Point University in High Point, N.C. The company now has 16 employees and will soon launch a softball division. For Baseball Factory, these are still the early innings.