5-5-10 A Bailout for SPY


The Wall St Journal published an assessment at the start of the year of Internet news services.  Some, like Politico and others with major institutional funding, including traditional media like newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media, were faring well and growing.

Many startups, however, had limited funding from philanthropic organizations, universities, etc., and a few investors with deep pockets who subscribed to particular political views they wanted expressed. But, not infrequently, many relied on their resource-limited staffs who contributed money/services.

Common to virtually all, the WSJ said, was that within months of startup, they followed the well-trod path of not-for-profit corporations of all kinds – fund raising.

SPY Softball has been an exception, reflecting my desire to have a communications medium available to all, and especially younger ballplayers who do not have independent incomes.  In pursuit of that goal, I have undercut the rationale for subscription-based Spysoftballthemagazine; the very feature articles, pictorials, and charts intended for the magazine have instead appeared, for free, in spysoftball.org, which is channeled through Front Page, and in Picassa, including a treasure-trove of Olympic photos.

In recent days, conferring with family, and the Internal Revenue Service, I have realized that, since 1996, I have spent about $400,000 to support SPY.  Primarily, these have been out-of-my-pocket expenditures.  To my everlasting gratitude, some tournament organizers have, on about a dozen occasions, been given comp rooms from hotels and have shared them with SPY.  On three occasions, tournament sponsors have provided or reimbursed air fare.  Magazine subscriptions, which actually became a convenient way for readers to contribute to SPY (the magazine did not publish in 2009 because the choice material all appeared in one of the two SPY websites), have dwindled to less than a thousand dollars.  The total cost of SPY would be more but Jim Easton paid air fare and hotel expenses for the Beijing Olympics.

Given the state of the economy, and the appreciation that many of the parents of softball players are not only working class people but softball enthusiasts who have spent thousands on their daughters as they matriculated from 10U through college, I have been reluctant to appeal for funds.

What I have done is pare SPY’s projected travel.  At this point, the only college tournament to which SPY is fully committed is the Women’s College World Series; the only travel ball tournament to which SPY is fully committed is the Premiere tournament in California.  Today, it costs about $1500 to cover a 3-day tournament, including air fare, hotel, car rental and a minimal per diem.  Others are waiting for decisions from SPY.  Before we did this assessment, I had hoped to be at Boulder, Champions, Ronald MacDonald, one or both NJ tournaments, Rising Stars winter classic, ASA 16U and NPF finals.

This decision to limit travel is not easily taken.  But, in the months since Beijing, I have absorbed $30,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses, and the Department of State has reduced my disability retirement to 66.3% of my former base salary.  Under terms of my retirement, I am not allowed outside income.  Since its inception, SPY has received all of an annuity left by my father, about $12,000 a year.  SPY was socked by Verizon with more than $15,000 in air-time charges for Canada Cup and the Olympics, and negotiations succeeded only in reducing that to $2500.  I sold one car to go to WCWS and Canada Cup last year, and my beloved antique Oldsmobile to go to Gold Nationals.  Like many of you, SPY suffered through the credit card compacting by major banks; SPY lost $50,000 in lines of credit.  After years of ensuring that balances did not exceed 50% of credit limits, the credit limits were in several cases reduced to amounts owed, and interest rates have increased.

SPY tried to sell advertising a couple of years ago to the major sports manufacturers; some did not reply; a few who did were uneasy about having their logos on SPY because of SPY editorials.  One suggested a possible donation if SPY would only cover tournaments/teams it supports.  SPY was trying to sell ads, not editorial control.

From time to time, SPY has received donations, the largest $3,000, but less than $300 in the past two years.  Just recently, the Tulsa Eagles Gold team, which raises funds for Choctaw Indian needs, donated $250. The girls made that decision, which is much appreciated.  Since January, some organizations have volunteered, at their initiative, to send donations to SPY, but none have done so.

So far, SPY has been to one 2010 tournament, the Garman, a ticket bought well in advance, a tournament at which SPY stays in Motel 6 for $29 a night.  Fortunately, thanks to Gametracker, SPY has been able to provide readers with all the D1 scores, weekly polls, conference honors, etc. from tournaments all around the country.

But, that Gametracker benefit or support mechanism ends with the World Series.  Travel ball tournaments have to be covered first-hand, with occasional, almost spasmodic reporting from sites not attended in person.

A grim financial picture, readers, but I cannot responsibly tax my retirement further.

If you wish to contribute, there is a mechanism on the front page of Spy.  Or, you can send money directly to Spy at: PO Box 397, McLean VA 22101.  SPY is a 501c3 corporation, chartered in Virginia.

Be assured any donations will be used to expand SPY’s travel itinerary.  Any amounts from $1 upward will be gratefully received.  Hopefully, some substantial corporations will lend support, but the anticipation is that any support will be rendered in small amounts by the people in the softball community.

Thank you for every consideration.

Rayburn Hesse

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