By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- Growing up in the Houston area, Shawn Stefani loved playing baseball as a kid, particularly catcher. But as an athlete, he was more talented on the golf course than the baseball diamond.
This week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, the PGA TOUR rookie started a business relationship that allows him to combine the two sports.
Stefani signed a sponsorship deal that puts the MLB.com logo on his bag for the rest of the year. MLB.com is the official web site of Major League Baseball, and Stefani is the first golfer they've sponsored.
"As a brand, it's a good idea to associate me with MLB.com," Stefani said.
The relationship grew out of a conversation Stefani's agent, Dave Parker, had in February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with a marketing representative from MLB.com. The two just happened to be sitting at the same table at a corporate event and began discussing ideas.
Their suggestions were then presented to Bob Bowman, the chief executive officer of MLB Advanced Media.
"It happened real quick," Parker said. "Bob loves golf and attends many events. We were just looking for a way to do some cross-promotion."
Although Stefani is just on his first full year on TOUR and is still finding his way -- he ranks 144th in FedExCup points -- Parker said his client is a good fit for what MLB.com was seeking.
"People ask me, 'Why Shawn?' I say, 'Why not Shawn?' " Parker said. "He's trying to build his brand and they wanted a young guy who they can grow with."
Although Stefani still throws the baseball around on occasion, most of his interest is now as a fan. He grew up as an Astros fan but knows it's tough to be one right now, as the Astros have the worst record in the American League and are 16 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
"It's exciting to watch the Rangers this year. And I like Boston and still pull for them," Stefani said. "But I like to pull for the Rangers too. Being a Texas boy, you've got to pull for the teams in Texas."