He takes them out to the ballpark. Stockbroker who loves kids and baseball gives away season tickets to major-league games to underprivileged children
Beverly Hills, Calif.
JAY GOLDINGER of Beverly Hills may never make baseball's Hall of Fame, but there is a good chance that he'll eventually turn up in the Guinness Book of Records. Good Samaritan might well be his category. This will be the second year that Mr. Goldinger, a 33-year-old stockbroker and investment counselor, has purchased four season tickets from all 26 major league baseball teams at a total cost of about $180,000. Then he gives them away!
He did have trouble making a purchase with the Detroit Tigers organization at first, though, which worried that if the Tigers got into the World Series he might sell his seats for a huge profit.
Neither Goldinger (a millionaire) nor his clients, however, ever get their hands on those tickets. Instead, they go to underprivileged boys and girls groups either in or near one of those 26 major-league franchises.
Usually, teen-age drug rehabilitation centers and orphanages get top priority. Most of the kids who benefit (about 30 percent are girls) are in the eight-to-16 age bracket.
``I love kids and I love baseball,'' Goldinger explains. ``I think as soon as a boy or girl is old enough to understand what the game is all about, someone close to them should take them to a major-league ballpark. My father took me the first time I went and I've been hooked ever since.''
Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth is among those who hope that what Goldinger is doing will trigger a response from others interested in helping underprivileged kids.
``The commissioner and Mr. Goldinger met about two years ago when they just happened to be passengers on the same airline,'' said Rich Levin, a spokesman for the commissioner's office.
``I know that they talked about the project and that Mr. Ueberroth offered his help and encouragement.''
Goldinger's passion for the game of baseball extends to playing it, too. For the past three years, he and his dad have attended the Los Angeles Dodgers' Ultimate Adult Baseball Fantasy Camp at spring training headquarters in Florida.
``Even though my father doesn't play baseball anymore, I make enough errors for both of us,'' Goldinger says.
``Last year I set the all-time record for most errors in a week, with 27, and remember hundreds of guys have gone through that camp,'' he continues. ``I'm hopeless as a ballplayer, you can ask anybody, but I have a great time.''
How close does Goldinger get to the thousands of kids who use his tickets, and does he ever talk to them about the importance of doing well in school and not getting involved in drugs?
``I'm not trying to build character, and I'm not trying to teach morals,'' Goldinger explains. ``That's for somebody else. I'm just out to give as many kids as I can a good time without any strings attached.
``Naturally I like to meet as many of these kids as I can, and when I occasionally get out to the ballpark and there is time I'll go over to where they are sitting and chat with them. But my conversation is a reaction to whatever they are talking about.
``However, I'll tell you this: they are all great kids, and since I started this thing I've been averaging 10 thank-you letters a day, some of them written in crayon. At first I thought that maybe their teachers were making these kids write to me, but when I checked it out I found out it was their own idea.''
Last December, Goldinger contacted a Los Angeles sports agent, Howard Slusher, and sent him shopping for a minor-league baseball franchise.
Mr. Slusher found one: the Salinas Spurs in the Class A California League (three different owners in the past four years), which Goldinger purchased for $200,000.
He has since spent $100,000 on improvements; turned the team into a Seattle Mariners' farm club; and hired a woman (Maryann Hudson, who formerly worked in the publicity offices of the L.A. Dodgers) as general manager. Much of that $100,000 went to modernize a city-owned stadium.
Goldinger also started a Spurs Booster Club that goes so far beyond the usual membership card and team cap with logo that it can only be called unique.
With Cal League players limited to about $800 a month in salary, Goldinger started an Adopt-a-Spur plan, whereby fans invite a player to live in their own home for the season.
In return, fans get box seats for the year, plus the satisfaction of knowing that the player will also donate a specified number of hours during the season to community service.
``Most of my friends and the people I work with tell me I'm crazy to spend all this money on tickets that I just give away, and they're right,'' Goldinger says. ``I am crazy. But it's fun. I love it and at the moment I don't ever plan to stop!''