Assembling College Ballplayers
at the Factory

 

Class of ’93 & ’95 | As a kid, Steve Sclafani C’93 “ate, slept, and drank” baseball. But it went beyond taking endless grounders and becoming MVP of his high-school team; he also hung out with pro scouts working in his area, and when he was all of 10 or 11 he read “one of the greatest scouting books ever written, Dollar Sign on the Muscle.” As a result, he says, “I was able to scout and evaluate other players at a very young age.”

Fast-forward to 1995, a couple of years after he graduated from Penn (when, as a senior, he won the Eddie Einhorn Unsung Hero Award as a varsity ballplayer). He was at a bar in Baltimore when he ran into a former teammate, Rob Naddelman C’95, who was planning to attend medical school after a sterling career as a two-time All Ivy third-baseman. Sclafani told Naddelman that he had recently started something called the Baseball Factory (www.baseballfactory.com).

“Steve explained his vision and what he was trying to accomplish,” recalls Naddelman, “and it instantly struck a chord with me.”

The original vision was to guide high-school players and their families through the college recruiting process. Later, it would expand to offering unique, high-quality training opportunities. Naddelman signed on, and neither one has looked back.

“We started off as an East Coast company designed to give high-school players more exposure to college coaches,” recalls Sclafani. “After a few years we realized that since baseball is a non-revenue sport (for the most part) on the college level, players from all areas of the country could benefit from our expertise.

“The next step was to help each and every player get the most out of their ability by helping them to improve their skills and play against top-level competition. There was nothing like this when I grew up, and as a result, I had a bit of a rude awakening on the collegiate level.”

“There were always two questions that I continued to ask myself,” says Naddelman, recalling his own college-search process. “One, was I good enough to play at other top-notch schools, and what could have happened if other schools knew who I was? And two, how good could I have been as a player if I worked with top instructors to help improve my weaknesses?” He saw the Baseball Factory (BBF) as a “way to help families answer those questions.”

Since its founding, the BBF, based in Columbia, Maryland, has helped more than 5,000 student-athletes get into college-baseball programs and receive some $75 million in scholarship money. The High School Baseball Coaches Association rated the BBF as the top service of its kind in the nation, and according to Sclafani, “nearly 30 percent of all players who enter college baseball every year now go through our program.”

The BBF produces a video of the player’s “projectable tools (hitting ability, defensive ability, arm strength, power, and running ability),” in Naddelman’s words. It also has current and former Major League scouts write an unbiased evaluation of the player’s skills—which adds a “tremendous amount of credibility with the college coaches, since they were reading a report from a source they could trust.”

After seeing thousands of players and reading countless evaluations, Sclafani and Naddelman realized that there were “common flaws” among high-school players. “We felt that if we offered instructional programs to address player weaknesses,” says Naddelman, “we could improve the ‘stock’ of the player, which would open up more doors at the college level.”

That service has proved invaluable for all parties, and the BBF has gone from $100,000 in revenues its first year to a projected $7 million in 2004, and from a single office “the size of a dorm room in the Quad” to a 10,000 square-foot facility with 40 full-time employees. Nine of its alumni were recently on Penn’s varsity roster, and Sclafani and Naddelman “continue to work closely” with Coach Bob Seddon. More than 150 BBF alumni have gone on to be drafted by Major League teams.

The long-term challenge, says Sclafani, is to “maintain quality control across the board while still expanding our core business and also reducing our expenses to increase profitability. We have separated ourselves from the pack, and as a result, there are always going to be competitors gunning for our spot.”—S.H.

 

2004 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 07/01/04




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Steve Sclafani and Rob Naddelman build ballplayers




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