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There’s a baseball cap on top of Mark V. Spix’s computer, where he can see it every day. Embroidered across the front are the words, “You’re NOT Getting Paid.” It’s an unlikely inspirational message, especially for someone in what’s often perceived as the glamorous, lucrative, Jerry McGuire-esque world of being a sports agent. Spix, a criminal defense lawyer with Spix, Krupp, Gort, Katz & Reece, devotes about a quarter of his practice to representing major and minor league baseball players. He says an agent’s job isn’t glamorous. It’s rife with competition and can strain relationships with others in the industry. And because of his philosophy of agency and his relatively recent entry into the business, it’s not even particularly lucrative. Both of which mean you won’t see Spix’s name linked with the kind of sports megadeals that make headlines, anger ball club owners, raise ticket prices and annoy fans. He’s not that kind of agent. Spix says he just can’t bring himself to say, ” ‘Gee, citizens of Atlanta,’ many of whom can’t even afford to go to a game, ‘my client isn’t happy with $18 million.’ “ He shrugs. “I can’t dazzle you with $200 million contracts and private jets. That’s not what baseball has meant to me.” For Spix, it’s more about love of the game. STARTED AT FANTASY CAMP An avid amateur ballplayer, Spix got into the sports agency field after attending an Atlanta Braves fantasy baseball camp about 10 years ago. There he met most of the 1990-1991 Braves team members, including Jeff Blauser, Mark Lemke, Glenn Hubbard and Terry Pendleton. They’re the ones who told him how to break into the business — a difficult move because, to be a certified agent, you need a major league client. And of course, no major leaguer wanted to leave an established agent for an unknown. But the Braves players advised him to scout for talent in countries with less money for pro sports. So Spix, along with two former law partners and his current partner Spencer J. Krupp, traveled to the Dominican Republic. “Rafael Furcal was 14 years old when I met him, maybe 15,” Spix recalls. REPRESENTED FURCAL Furcal, now the Braves’ shortstop and recently voted the National League’s Rookie of the Year, signed on as a client (though Spix says it’s likely Furcal will be represented by one of his former partners in the future). Neifi Perez, a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, remains a client of Spix’s firm. Ultimately, the firm represented 74 young major league players, 3,000 former major leaguers and about 70 minor leaguers. To attract hatchling major leaguers, the firm agrees to represent them and provide them with shoes and equipment and, as Spix puts it, “to make sure they [don't] feel like some poor dirt farmers from Hooterville.” Once signed, beginning major leaguers make minimum wage. In baseball vernacular, that’s about $205,000 a year. And that’s where Spix’s “You’re NOT Getting Paid” hat comes in. It’s a reminder that the Major League Baseball Players Association rules forbid certified agents from taking a penny of that $205,000. If Spix wants to get paid, he’s got to negotiate something beyond that. After a player has been with a quality ball club for a year, Spix says he can negotiate extra money for service time — maybe $35,000 — and awards. His firm also works for retired baseball greats including former Cincinnati Reds player Johnny Bench; Vida Blue, once with the Oakland A’s; and ex-Milwaukee Brave Lew Burdette. PUBLICITY RIGHTS Most of the work for former players centers on privacy or publicity rights. Earlier this year, Spix helped settle suits on behalf of players who claimed their likenesses had been used without permission in a series of fantasy baseball computer games. In the settlement, two dozen former players split $675,000. They also got the promise of future royalties and control over how their images are used. It’s not a lot of up-front money. And, says Spix, the royalties he gets for former players aren’t often fiscally impressive. But the ballplayers’ responses are. He tells the story of a former player who spent 18 years in the majors and played three World Series games. Spix sent the man a royalty check for $1,000. The man called Spix later, and Spix says he was sure the ballplayer had called to complain. Instead, the man thanked him. He also told Spix that another former player, now in an Arizona nursing home, was grateful for the $100 royalty Spix had gotten him. Now he could afford to buy pizza for his friends. With Spix, thank-you’s matter. So does character. It’s something he looks for when he’s scouting for clients. Drug busts, violence and paternity suits “can be a public relations nightmare,” he says. But even with Spix’s careful character vetting, every now and then he still has to do damage control. The biggest so far: his successful defense in a paternity suit filed against Luis Polonia, a former Brave now with the New York Yankees. THE PERKS Of course, there are perks. Spix says he has one of the best — and easiest to verify — autograph collections around. “I have autographs of very famous people on the backs of checks,” he says. He’s also got a photo of himself with the late Mickey Mantle, taken after a golf game with the baseball legend. Spix calls it one of the highlights of his life. Despite the chance to meet baseball’s legends and rising stars, Spix says being an agent isn’t glamorous. After all, he’s not the one who flies to the Dominican Republic to eyeball promising players. He says he’s not qualified, so he hires experts and strikes up friendships with people in the know, including Braves talent scout Bobby Wine. And there’s a lot of competition. Big sports marketing and management companies such as IMG lure players away with their all-star client rosters and ties to companies like Nike. Then there’s the impact on relationships. “What’s not glamorous is that I’ve had fights with my partners,” he says, explaining that the fights were with former, not current, law partners. “People will steal your people.” Spix says ball clubs get angry with him, club owners think he’s trying to take money out of their pockets, and friends in the business shun him in public. He recalls a visit to New York when he went out on the field to talk to a friend who’s a Mets coach. The friend said, I won’t talk to you here, call me later. Spix, confused, walked away. Later, the friend told him that it looked bad for them to be seen together, because in a few weeks Spix would be calling his boss to negotiate contracts and ask for money. The Mets coach didn’t want to appear to be giving Spix inside information. And then there’s the money, the “You’re NOT Getting Paid” baseball cap. Spix won’t reveal how much he earns as an agent, but jokes that if he did, friends would say he took the work just for the publicity. What’s more important, he says, is doing what he wants with his life. “I think someday it will be lucrative,” he says. “In the meantime, gee, would I rather be downtown trying a murder case or working with the Colorado Rockies?”

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