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Eat’n Park Hospitality Group may bill itself as “the place for smiles,” but it’s also a hot bed for softball.
The family-style restaurant chain has had a league of its own for more than 25 years. It consists of 37 teams in six divisions that cover employees of 49 restaurants from western Pennsylvania into eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia. There’s also a corporate team.
“We use it as a retention tool, and we love the way people can get to know others they normally wouldn’t meet,” said Adam Golomb, Eat’n Park marketing director.
Teams create their own uniforms, usually T-shirts. The season, which includes 220 games, runs April through June, with playoffs in July and August.
Softball teams can help a company market itself to the outside world in a couple ways. Wearing the company name and logo on shirts and caps turns every player into a walking — or in the case of catchers, crouching — billboard. Anyone watching from the stands or passing the ballpark gets an eyeful. If the opposition is another company, it creates the potential for connections that could lead to new business.
Downtown law firm Thorp Reed & Armstrong LLP takes a less-structured approach on the diamond.
“We have a team, per se, a group of people who like to play,” said Allen Lopus, a partner whose practice centers on commercial and corporate litigation, and has represented the Washington Wild Things professional baseball team and Pittsburgh Riverhounds professional soccer team. He alternates between left field and the pitcher’s mound.
“What we’ll do is make a couple calls and set up some games against other law firms, could be Cohen (& Grigsby PC), Dickie (McCamey & Chilcote), Buchanan (Ingersoll & Rooney PC), and reserve a field from the city. We do it as a good time to build camaraderie and get people together,” he said.
Lopus, who has played on Thorp Reed’s team since joining the firm 12 years ago and, before that, played against it when he worked at Tucker Arensberg PC, said it’s a good way to build relationships inside and outside the firm that may lead to new business opportunities.
“You get to know people from other firms and if you’ve got a case with or against someone, it definitely helps to get to know them in another way,” Lopus said.
After the game, teams may grab snacks and drinks together. The networking isn’t confined just to those who play.
Rick Winter, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, now serves as a marketing professor with a special interest in sports.
“People want to partner where they have a sense of familiarity,” Winter said. “For companies that aren’t household names, you get the value of exposure.
“Service firms get 80 percent to 90 percent of new clients through referrals. If a law firm’s team competed against, say, banks or accounting firms, those are gold mines in terms of referrals.”