Behind the Scenes: The Business of the Ballpark
Traveling close to 100 miles per hour, foul balls could be dangerous to spectators if not for 2,500 square feet of netting, which lines the backstop and dugout railings of Turner Field. The nets are made by the 19 employees of Burbank Sport Nets of Fernandina Beach, Florida. When William Burbank Jr. founded the company in 1957, it made shrimp nets; his son Billy joined in 1978 and gradually shifted the focus to sports.
Major League Baseball Rule 3.01(c) requires umpires to inspect each ball before a game to ensure it is "properly rubbed." Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud has supplied gloss-removing mud to every MLB team for more than 50 years. Philadelphia A's coach Lena Blackburne discovered the mud in a secret spot on the Delaware River in 1938. The company is now run by Jim Bintliff in Delran, New Jersey. Bintliff ages his mud for six months before sending it to major league teams across the nation.
The song calls for peanuts and Cracker Jack, but fans at Turner Field also eat thousands of pounds of fried food at every game. This year, the stadium will sell all its used cooking oil (more than 9,500 gallons) to BioFuel Atlanta, which will turn it into biodiesel fuel. Thomas DePalo, a former accountant, started the company in 2008. He has a staff of 30 and expects sales of $2.5 million in 2009.
Since 1939, sluggers have trotted over the Jack Corbett MLB Hollywood Base, made by Schutt Sports of Litchfield, Illinois. Base sales have grown 150 percent in the past four years, as teams started selling "game-used" memorabilia. Some clubs now go through more than 900 bases per year; they retail for about $75 each. The 400-employee company, led by CEO Robert Erb, bought the original basemaker, Hollywood Bases, in 1996.