Play ball, learn business Featured

11:01am EDT October 30, 2001
Spending part of January in Florida would be a welcome break for any Pittsburgher. Spending it with some of your best friends could make it a lot more fun.

For Hoddy Hanna, president and chief operating officer of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services Inc., a week at Pirates Fantasy Camp with three good friends and 1971 world champion Bucs players including Manny Sanguillen, Steve Blass and Dock Ellis was a dream come true.

Hanna grew up in Oakland, a few blocks from storied Forbes Field, and spent many evenings at Pirates' games during some of the franchise's better seasons. Even if no one was calling him ''Home Run Hoddy'' by the end of camp, Hanna enjoyed the experience enough to go again; he's considering taking his two grown sons on the next trip.

''It was a great, great, great, great time,'' Hanna gushes when talking about his seven-day vacation in Bradenton, Fla.

Some aspects of the camp, including the preparations Hanna and his friends began months before the trip, parallel sound business principles.

The value of preparation

Hanna and his friends started to train last November at UPMC's sports complex on the South Side, spending a few days each week running and throwing to condition their bodies for the toll that concentrated, strenuous athletic activity could take on them. The regimen also included regular visits to a batting cage facility.

The rigors of camp left him sore every day, says Hanna, and he suffered a hamstring pull, but he didn't miss any games. Without the proper preparation, he may not have been able to keep up or could have sustained more serious injuries.

And, as in business, a little bit of knowledge can help.

''You have to understand baseball to really enjoy it,'' says Hanna.

And with business, you have to understand it if you're going to have a chance at being successful at it.

The support staff

''I always believed that a team effort in anything has to work better than a loner operation,'' Hanna says.

With only a dozen members on each team, Hanna says, everyone's talents had to be used judiciously to squeeze the most out of their performance. And players had to be willing to play hurt, if necessary, to support the team.

While the teamwork parallel between sports and business is obvious, the comparisons are often limited to the playing field. However, Hanna says the camp gave him a greater appreciation for the off-the-field staff of an athletic team, the coaches, trainers and equipment people who make the wheels run smoothly and help athletes on the field perform at peak levels.

Says Hanna: ''It helps to remind you that it's not just the nine people on each team, but the support mechanisms.'' How to reach: Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, www.howardhanna.com; Pittsburgh Pirates, http://pirates.nlb

Ray Marano (rmarano@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN Magazine.