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Sports Inc. Featured

8:59am EDT October 24, 2001

Andy Schmetzer has a few spare moments. It's early afternoon, and he's just gotten done running a soccer camp on the other side of town and returned to the Cleveland Crunch's headquarters in Warrensville Heights.

He carries two enormous florescent orange jugs that used to hold water. His skin is tanned from weeks out in the summer sun. He wears shorts and a red T-shirt with a big Dairy Queen logo on the front.

"Are we playing softball tonight?" he asks Crunch media relations director Michael Cracas as he sets the jugs down. "I think the field should be dry by then."

A violent summer thunderstorm has just soaked Cleveland's east side.

"What time are we starting?"

Time is one thing Schmetzer doesn't have much of, but he's working on that. He's a captain and midfielder on the Cleveland Crunch, owns a coffee shop at Akron Children's Hospital, runs summer soccer camps and manages the Force Fitness Indoor Soccer Center, where the Crunch practices. And don't forget the demands of a family with two children, which he also has.

Schmetzer is busy, but you can't tell from talking with him. He's not a hurried type, armed with a cell phone, PDA and daily planner. He's not checking his watch every two minutes. He speaks in calm, almost drowsy tones. He speaks like a man at ease, not one rushing to his next appointment.

"I've had some great, great young employees, especially at the coffee place," he says looking off, a smile emerging on his face. "I have kind of a reputation, especially with them. Sometimes I get flighty, they say. At times I'm running in so many different directions, but I try to organize myself pretty well. It's difficult to do because of what I do with the team."

Meanwhile, 260 miles northeast in Rochester, N.Y., Schmetzer's teammate Bill Sedgewick is also busy, with the one task he loves: playing soccer. In the summers, Sedgewick plays for the Rochester Raging Rhinos outdoors before returning to Cleveland when the weather favors the indoor game.

But Sedgewick has his mind on business, too. He's co-owner of two restaurants in Edmonton, Ontario, called Badass Jack's Gourmet Subs & Wraps, a popular Canadian franchise. He recently opened the second location after the success of his downtown eatery.

Sedgewick's partner manages the sandwich shops while he's playing soccer, which is pretty much all the time.

"The reality of it -- guys don't look at the reality of it -- you can injured at any time," Sedgewick says. "Just in the back of your head, you know if I'm injured or if I'm not able to play anymore, I have something to fall back on -- something that's growing, something that I don't have to start from the ground up."

The teammates say they talk shop during the season. Sedgewick, 30, turns for advice to 34-year-old Schmetzer, who has run as many as five coffee shops in Northeast Ohio since 1992.

The men are in different places in their business careers. Schmetzer is focusing on the indoor soccer center, getting away from the coffee shop. Sedgewick is working on expansion plans for Badass Jack's.

"That really interested me, the coffee shops," says Sedgewick, who joined the Crunch last year. "We've discussed certain parts of the business, labor costs, food costs. Even the indoor center he's trying to purchase. I wish I were more hands-on. I was playing indoor at Edmonton so I would be there in the winter for years to come. But it didn't work out that way."

The teammates share the business bond with few of the other players. Most are content just to play soccer year-round, perhaps a little envious of the entrepreneurial Schmetzer and Sedgewick.

"I always like to learn, see what other people are doing," Schmetzer says. "We talked about what it's like running the business and doing things after and how much time he takes in it. For that, we had a lot in common. The guys always gave me a hard time about how dumb I was working all the time.

"They were always like, 'We're not asking Andy if he wants to go golfing.' I was totally out of the golf circuit."

Schmetzer's business savvy seems to be genetic. His parents, German immigrants, came to America with nothing. His father was lured overseas by a job at a sheet metal plant outside Seattle, where the Schmetzers settled to raise a family.

When Schmetzer was 7, his father took all he had saved and opened a soccer-only sporting goods store called Sporthaus Schmetzer. There are two stores in the Seattle area and an indoor soccer center called the Everett Soccer Arena. Schmetzer's brother now runs the family businesses.

"I guess I just learned from them," Schmetzer says. "I like to try new things. I don't mind taking risks and I don't mind working hard to go after things. In that respect, I kind of get it from my parents, watching them. They're retired now and they made a good go of it."

His father was his coach from age 4. The youth club soccer leagues are fiercely competitive in Seattle. It's where you improve your game and get noticed by professional scouts. Playing for your school is just for fun, although Schmetzer did that as well. The Cleveland Force drafted him out of high school in 1985, where he played until the team folded in 1988.

Reluctantly, he went back to play in Tacoma, Wash., but Cleveland left its impression.

"I really liked Cleveland from the day I got here," Schmetzer says. "I got out of my (Tacoma) contract as soon as it came up. The coach in Cleveland at that time was Kai Haaskivi. I knew him from the Force and we were very close, and I tried like crazy to get out here and it worked. That was in 1990. A couple years after that, I opened the coffee shops."

Think back to Cleveland in 1990. There was that Arabica on Coventry in Cleveland Heights, and the names Starbucks and Caribou weren't yet part of the everyday vernacular. Eleven years ago, a cup of coffee was 79 cents at the most.

Things have changed.

Enter the World Wide Web. Enter grunge and everything Seattle. Enter the Java Connection. Schmetzer opened the first one, only a kiosk, in Saks Fifth Avenue in Beachwood Mall in 1992.

"I had one location, one small location, everything was going fine, Schmetzer says. "Then all of a sudden you find another good location and another, and that's when things started to get, oh my gosh, I don't have time for it."

He opened in Akron Children's Hospital and Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland, where he had a full-size shop. During the season, it was surprising Schmetzer had any energy left for soccer. He worked at one of the coffee shops from 7 a.m. until practice at 9 a.m. When practice was over at noon, he'd go back to the shop and keep working until at least 9 p.m., usually later.

"It was bananas," Schmetzer says. "But I get antsy when I'm not doing stuff. My first four or five years, I did what all athletes do, what they probably should do. You went to practice, you came home afterwards, you watched TV, you ate, you took naps and then you got ready for next day's practice. I did that for a number of years, and then finally I said, 'I better get something going. I don't want to be retiring from soccer and have nothing to fall back on. I don't want to start from scratch.'"

Last year, when the opportunity came to manage the Force Fitness Indoor Center, it was a natural fit and Schmetzer jumped at the chance. With another time demand and mounting competition from Starbucks and Caribou popping up on every street corner, he decided to shed the coffee shops. So when Lutheran Hospital started work on its $2.3 million renovation, Schmetzer didn't object when Java Connection wasn't part of the new design.

"It really got to me mentally," Schmetzer says. "Timewise, it was nonstop. It really started to wear on me, and quite honestly, looking back, one reason I'm trying to get rid of the coffee shop, the indoor center is not as much work. I stopped enjoying ... I didn't get as much out of playing for a while, just because I was tiring myself out.

"I just didn't feel like I was giving my body enough of the rest it needed. By that time, you're so deeply entrenched in the business, you're thinking, 'What can I do? I can't just leave it. I can't just not show up.' It was tiring. There's no question about it."

It's doubtful that Sedgewick will follow his teammate's path. Since he's not involved in the day-to-day operations, his sandwich shops are little more than an investment for now.

There will be time for them when soccer's over. But that's not to say Sedgewick, who has a bachelor's degree in business finance, hasn't learned anything.

"You have to have incredible honesty when you work with a partner," he says. "It takes someone special, first of all, because I'm here playing soccer and she's there running the business full time. Also the time you put in, you would never imagine. You think, 'I'll open a business,' and they don't think about the paperwork aspect of it. The awkward hours you have to put in when the little things come up, people not showing up.

"Flexibility, for sure is one of the things I've grasped most about it."

Sedgewick played indoor soccer for the Edmonton Drillers until 1999, when he decided to take a season off to work at the sandwich shop full-time. Months later, he missed soccer and wanted to get back in the game. The Driller's owner, thinking Sedgewick wasn't returning, traded him to Wichita, Kansas.

Sedgewick was devastated. He wanted to keep playing indoors, but moving to Wichita was not an option. Luckily, Cleveland picked up his contract and Sedgewick joined the team for the 2000-2001 season.

"It's one of the best-run franchises in the league," Sedgewick says. "Stability was important. They have a great tradition with winning. And it's close to Rochester; it's only a four-hour drive."

The Crunch's season kicks off this month, and Schmetzer's and Sedgewick's attention will be focused solely on soccer bringing a championship to Cleveland in April. They'll make time for business when they can.

Schmetzer is contemplating purchasing the Force Fitness Indoor Center from Bart Wolstein, former owner of the Crunch. He's proven he can manage the center -- it was booked all summer by amateur and youth soccer leagues, a feat which hasn't been accomplished in several years.

"It's gone more toward youth practices and really went away from the adult leagues that were going there in the evenings," Schmetzer says. "I'm trying to bring that back. I'm trying to book it every night with the adult leagues and kids playing on weekends. And I want to fix the place the up, and I want to clean it up and get it to its past glory.

"It's going to be a slow process, but I think it can be done."

And Sedgewick and his business partner are designing plans to bring Badass Jack's across the border.

"We even looked at opening in the airport terminals," he says. "The name's catchy. It would probably be different in the States just because there's already companies with that name. It would probably be B.A. Jack's or something."

Whatever its name, Sedgewick and his teammate Schmetzer have a stable future to look forward to when they hang up the cleats, or indoor shoes, in this case. In the unpredictable world of professional sports, you can't ask for much more.

How to reach: Cleveland Crunch, (216) 896-1140