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Sports agency cutting big deals for players

— It may seem unlikely for a lawn-mower manufacturer and Major League Baseball to team up. But for the last two years, it has worked well.

It all began when major league baseball player Ryan Franklin needed a lawn mower. The relief pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and the representatives from Bad Boy Mowers Inc. became friends, forming a trust. Then Franklin’s brother, Jay Franklin - a former baseball player turned sports agent - entered the picture and teamed up with Phil Pulley, co-owner of Bad Boy, to form BBI Sports Group.

BBI Sports Group isn’t an average sports management agency. In its short life, the team successfully negotiated a$75 million contract for Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

“It is the largest average annual value for any second baseman,” said Lennie Foree, Bad Boy Mowers and BBI marketing director. “It’s $2.6 million more than any other second baseman in baseball history.” With Jay Franklin’s relationship with the ballclubs, teamed up with the business, legal, accounting and marketing departments of Bad Boy, BBI Sports is able to bring more to the table than any other sports agency.

“We are trending at this time to be the second-biggest mower manufacturer in the world,” Scott Lancaster, general legal counsel, said about Bad Boy Mowers.

Foree chimed in about BBI: “We want to be the biggest agency in baseball. Just like Bad Boy, we want to be the best.”

The sports management team is on the right track with recent contract negotiations for players such as Dylan Bundy.The pitcher from Oklahoma was drafted fourth in the first round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.

“It’s rare to get a major league contract directly out of high school,” Foree said. “His talent is rare. He’s a phenom.”

Another top-10 draft pick managed by BBI is Archie Bradley, a pitcher who was drafted seventh overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft out of Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma.

With the backing of experienced contract negotiators, BBI presents a fair dollar amount for its players, based on extensive research.

“We don’t just pull the number out of the sky,” Foree said. “We are coming in with a good strong number based on facts.”

BBI currently has 27 players signed with teams, and four of those have major league contracts. In addition to Bundy and Kinsler, second baseman Elian Herrera signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and pitcher Jeremy Hefner signed with the New York Mets. Hefner pitched in a game for the Mets this week.

Each year, BBI invites the players to visit Arkansas to hunt and relax. That’s just one way BBI nurtures the personal relationship with its players. Weekly calls are made to the players just to check in and to see if they need anything. Endorsement deals are sought and are analyzed to make sure they are in the best interest of the players.

Lancaster said one thing that no other sports management team does is negotiate a college education into a player’s contract.

“With a contract right out of high school, we include college,” he said. “If they are injured, the team will guarantee them a college education.”

In addition to the roles of Pulley, Jay Franklin, Lancaster and Foree, the rest of the BBI team consists of Landon Russell, who goes after baseball card and equipment deals;

Bill Hearst, who is the office liaison with Jay Franklin; David Brogdon, who is the chief financial officer and registered sports agent; Jay Sawatski, who is a former baseball player and holds a degree in sports management; Brad Welch, who caters to all the equipment needs of the players; and Jim Schwanke, a former coach and agent adviser.

The BBI team is gearing up for its second major league draft, which will be June 4, 5 and 6.

“We’re real excited to negotiate deals,” Lancaster said. “The draft war room is like the New York Stock Exchange. … The major league draft is like a chess game with all the strategy.”

For more information on BBI and a list of its players, visit bbisportsgroup.com.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 119 on 05/27/2012

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