February 21, 2010 12:38:00 AM
Baseball fans in the state of Mississippi should have a new gold mine of information available to them very soon.
Gene Swindoll, whose Web site, Gene''s Page, has been covering Mississippi State athletics, including recruiting, since 1996, hopes to bring Mississippi Hardball on line at the end of this week.
The site, www.MississippiHardball.com, will focus on junior college, high school, and travel teams and players in and from the state of Mississippi. Swindoll said there will be some carryover of coverage of senior colleges, particularly when it comes to MSU baseball recruiting news, but he said the site will concentrate its efforts on recruiting.
Swindoll said the idea came to him a year ago after listening to new MSU baseball coach John Cohen talk about how he wanted to emphasize recruiting in the state of Mississippi. When he examined how many Mississippi players were playing baseball at the state''s Division I schools and Delta State, he found the number to be extremely high, so that told him a Web site dedicated to Mississippi baseball could find an audience.
"I am going to give it a year and find out how it works," Swindoll said of his subscription-based service. "I hope to make enough money to cover my expenses."
Swindoll acknowledges the economic climate might not be ideal to start a new business, especially one on the Internet. But he said he will keep the cost to subscribe to Mississippi Hardball low ($40 annually, $5 a month). He said the fact that he had an infrastructure built with Gene''s Page and that he has a good working knowledge of how to operate a Web site and how he needed to build his new site helped in the developmental stages.
Swindoll said the site will be available free for the first month for everyone. He said a lot of the content on the site will be free, but that subscribers will be able to access "premium" content.
Swindoll said he has enlisted the help of six writers, one talent evaluator, and a couple of professional scouts to help him judge the skills of the state''s players. He said he also will write stories for the site when time permits and that he will take pictures. He also has another photographer who will help him take pictures.
Ideally, Swindoll said he would like to get the point where he has writers in each region of the state. For now, though, he said he will try to get the word out about the site and build interest. He said the site will feature stories on players, coaches, and teams, and highlight the recruitment of players in each classes. He said the site will feature a list of the top players in each class and write about the best games and series each week.
"I think I will be able to draw subscribers from both avenues, high school parents who want to see their kids on the site and people who follow the colleges," Swindoll said. "We''re going to cover it all of the way down to high school freshmen. Recruiting is such a big deal that even if they are freshmen and sophomores people will want to read about it."
Swindoll, a former accountant at C&G Railway for 21 years, gave up that job in 2000 or 2001 to concentrate on Gene''s Page. He knew he took a gamble to start the MSU site in September 1996, but he said he has built a subscription-based following that allows him to make a living off the Web site. He knows he won''t get rich starting another site, but he hopes the interest will be there from fans for something he enjoys covering.
"I tell people I am the grandfather of Internet sites," Swindoll said. "There were no newspapers out there doing what we were doing with Gene''s Page, and there were really no Mississippi State sites, unofficial or official, or no Ole Miss or Southern Miss sites. Recruiting always has been a big thing with Gene''s Page, and it will be a big thing with this Web page.
"I hope it will work out. I just decided I wanted to do it. It is just a gamble. I know economically there are hard times, but there are still businesses that have started up and have been successful. Maybe it will work and maybe it won''t."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.