A lot of things have changed for Tom Archer since he played second base at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, went to college on a baseball scholarship, had the opportunity to further his baseball career professionally but was sidelined with a leg injury. Archer soon left the sport to go into the insurance business, eventually founding his own firm. Though not on the baseball diamond, he became a multi-millionaire, selling life insurance to wealthy people, including professional athletes. “I made a lot of money in the insurance business. I wasn’t a good enough player, anyway,” Archer said. “I was good enough to play rookie or ‘A’ ball. You can hang around there for six or seven years. Some guys hang on forever.”
Although he left the field, he hasn’t left the game. In addition to selling policies to ballplayers, Archer also works as a Chicago White Sox scout and owns a White Sox Minor league team. “I’m at games every day. Pro games, college, high school games and I go to my kids’ games,” Archer, who leads The Archer Financial Group in Melville, said. “On Saturday, I scouted the South Bronx. I went from Dewitt Clinton to James Monroe to Cardozo to Adelphi to New York Tech.”
While he pursued life insurance as a profession, he is one of several Long Islanders who kept baseball as part of his business and his life.
When people think of sport careers, they typically think of athletes, coaches, and broadcasters. But there are many jobs related to baseball off the field, letting people make money from a passion for the past time. While the players are in the spotlight, others have found ways to turn a profit from the sport, ranging from serving as team physicians to owning minor league teams, teaching the sport, and selling memorabilia. Although this may not be “big money ball”, they found ways to weave baseball into their life and work, sometimes finding a big customer base among athletes who help them build their business.
Dr. Joshua Dines is one of the Mets’ team physicians, boosting his overall practice from the credentials that go with being a team doctor.
Frank Boultan not only founded the Long Island Ducks, but an entire league of his own: The Atlantic League.
Keith Osik retired from the game only to become Farmingdale State College’s baseball coach and to teach at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank.
And Steiner Sports opened a memorabilia shop in Roosevelt Field Shopping Center, built around (but not limited to) the Yankees.
As Part owner of the minor league Winston Salem Dash, a farm team for the Chicago White Sox in the Carolina league, and a scout for the White Sox, Archer stays in the baseball business. “A lot of people are fans. I’m fortunate enough to have ownership and be able to scout,” Archer continued. “There are a million ways to be involved.”
Once Keith Osik, a Shoreham Wading River High School graduate, played his last game in Major League Baseball as a catcher, he wasn’t sure what he’d do. He soon found a way back into baseball as a coach at Farmingdale State College, which has proved a long-lasting match. “I didn’t necessarily have a plan,” Osik said. “I was coming out of the big leagues. It just happened pretty quickly.” He transitioned from player to coach fairly smoothly, in part because he had acted a little bit like an on the field coach. “In the big leagues, a lot of managers were catchers. It’s front facing,” Osik added. “You see the game differently than when you play behind the ball. It’s a better angle to see the game as opposed to being a third baseman or shortstop.” He also played every position on the field in college and the Majors except centerfield and shortstop. Still, it was a big change from MLB to college ball. “I said to myself, ‘What was I doing here?’” of his first year as coach. “It took a lot of hard work to get them up to speed and change the culture,” Osik built a strong program and team, winning the Division III Skyline conference nine out of 11 times. “It’s less strenuous, I can tell you that,” he said of coaching. “It’s basically passing on a system of how to play baseball, passing on things that I’ve learned. It’s also teaching them an elevated passion and concentrated level-that every pitch matters.”
While MLB players sometimes find jobs in the sport after they stop playing professionally, others go the ownership route. MLB teams go for between $600 million and $3.5 billion, making it tough to get into that owner’s clubs. But minor league teams sell for between $3 million and $30 million, making them more accessible. “I love the sport. I love being around it,” says Archer. “Major League Baseball is big business.” Salaries go from about $1,100 a month for ‘A’ ball to $1,700 for ‘AA’ and $2,100 for ‘AAA’, while the minimum salary in Major League Baseball is more than $500,000. Minor league teams can make money, even without TV contracts. “Baseball is a very good business, if you have a good fan base,” Archer continued. “A lot of billionaires are in minor league teams.” Warren Buffet owned a 25 percent stake in the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Kansas City Royals Triple A team, until 2012. He and the owners sold their interest to investors led by New York businessman Gary Green of Alliance Building Services. Revenue from minor league teams come from tickets, concessions and advertising. Teams also rent out their stadiums for concerts. “Everybody’s here for one reason, to make it to the show,” Archer said of minor league players who sometimes end up playing, or returning to, Major League Ball.
While Archer remains involved in the game, his biggest financial connection to the sport may be through his customers. “I wanted to be a specialist like being the best surgeon in the country,” Archer said. I didn’t want to be an insurance guy asking people to buy life insurance. I wanted to specialize in wealthy people. I was very determined to work in the wealthy market.” He had an edge in getting ballplayers as customers because he was one. He leveraged that connection to the sport to build his insurance business. “I have a ton of baseball players. I can’t put their names out there,” Archer said. “I think once we meet, it makes them feel at ease that I know how they think. I think people know how much I love the game and I know the game and I know my business.” Archer also gives tickets to baseball and other games to clients, finding other ways to work the sport into his business. “This is a business where you take people to dinner, to ball games,” he said. “We take people to ball games, or we give them tickets to go see a game.” Since Archer’s clients tend to be wealthy, he makes sure he gives good seats. “Mostly baseball, because that’s what I love,” Archer said. “I go to the games with the client. If it’s other sports, I usually give them tickets.”
In addition to individuals, businesses also find ways to go to bat with baseball. Canon, whose U.S. operations are based in Melville, has a sign staring back at cameras and crowds in Yankee Stadium. New York Mets co-owner Saul Katz is a board member of Northwell Health. Northwell sponsors a nursing station at Mets games and is acknowledged on the in-stadium screen after each Mets win. The healthcare provider most recently partnered with the Mets as the sponsor of the Mr. Met Dash, in which children run the bases at Citi Field after Sunday home games. “It gives us the opportunity to sponsor an event that shows area youngsters and their parents that exercise is not only important to their health, but also can be exciting and fun,” Northwell CEO Mike Dowling said. Lake Success based Nathan’s Famous, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, owes at least some of its longevity to baseball. “You can walk with a hotdog, have a drink in another hand,” former Nathan’s CEO Wayne Norbitz said. “You don’t need a seat with a hotdog. That’s why I think in baseball, the hotdog became the product.” “We built the value of the brand,” Norbitz said. “Nothing’s more American than the hotdog.”
While Boulton built the Atlantic League and launched the Long Island Ducks into a business, he and many Long Islanders working in baseball didn’t do it to get rich. “I could retire and I wouldn’t have to work. I didn’t do this just for the money. It actually became quite successful,” he said. “I look at the way we operate our business as a public trust. We continue to provide something that, I think, is a point of pride for Long Island.” He strives to provide “major league amenities on a minor league scale” and believes the Ducks have become “Long Island’s hometown baseball team.” If he and others who work in the baseball world like what they do, it takes a lot of effort in and out of the season. “We come here all year round and work 12 months to put on five months of baseball,” Boutlon said. Ducks President Michael Pfaff also likes what he does, making a living from a sporting life “I wanted to work in the business of sports when I was in college,” said Pfaff, who worked in the National Football League for seven years before joining the Ducks, where he became general manager in 2006 and president in 2001. Osik said he did fairly well as a professional baseball player, but has stuck with Farmingdale Rams. “I built this program to what it is now,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to leave.” Meanwhile, Tom Archer stays connected not only as a scout and team owner, but through his family as well. “We still hit in the cage with my sons an hour a night. We take a few hundred ground balls a day,” Archer said of the batting cage in his backyard. “It’s a baseball family.” He, his wife and sons often go to a nearby field to keep playing the game he loved as a boy. “We take our ground balls. My wife gets involved,” Archer said. “She feeds the baseballs to me. I hit them. I guess it’s an obsession, maybe. A passion. I still hit the ball, take some ground balls myself with them.”
One of his sons has a baseball scholarship at Hofstra University, where he’s a student and a second baseman. The other son plays junior varsity shortstop at St. John the Baptist. “Over the weekend, I’m scouting from the South Bronx,” Archer said. “Some people come up to me and say, ‘You’re a multimillionaire. What are you doing here’ I’m scouting baseball because I love it. It has nothing to do with money.” He’s happy with his career off the field and his ability to remain involved with the game, while his connections to the sport may have helped him build a business beyond. “The dream of playing pro ball, it’s in front of you. The next thing you know, it’s gone. It was nice to move on and start this business with a clear head,” Archer said of his transition to insurance. “Now I’m in it and I’m enjoying it. I have ownership. I do my scouting. I have sons who play. It worked out in life. I feel truly blessed.”