Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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In a few short days we’ll achieve a Press Pros milestone that many never expected to see – 10 years.  Some words today on how far we’ve come, and how far we can yet go.

No one really knows who first uttered, “They said it wouldn’t last.” All we know is that it’s something that we’ve always said, and quick to say about anything different that doesn’t fit the tried and true.

Trust it, I’ve heard it plenty of times since August 10th, 2010, the date on which Press Pros Magazine was launched at 4 pm in the afternoon.  As I remember now the last person I talked to before hitting the ‘go live’ button was the then owner of WPTW radio, who uttered those fateful words as he looked at our business plan.  “This will never catch on,”  he said.  “People want a newspaper in their hand.”

He wasn’t alone, or the first to tell me that.  But apparently no one took the time back in 2010 to notice that the Columbus Dispatch, the Dayton Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer were already trying to establish a presence on what we called then the world-wide web.  So the newspapers knew;  they just weren’t willing to put all their eggs in that basket.

But we did, and we have for the past ten seasons, and now, just days removed from our 10th anniversary, Press Pros Magazine is churning…growing as print media shrinks.  If you question, compare the size and content of your local paper to what it was just five years ago.  And try to remember the last time it was printed seven days a week.

But in truth, I have to thank a hunting friend who owned a trucking company in Midland, Texas back then, and more than once listened to my idea for self-determination through the internet.  He encouraged me to try.

Versailles’ Kami McEldowney slips through and under a pair of Badin defenders in the 2017 regional finals.

“Make it entertaining,”  he advised.  “And make it something that can help small business.  Make it affordable for people to get their name and their service out before readers.  I know,” he said.  “I was a small businessman, and there was nothing like that for me.”

He also put his money on the line, and in January of 2010 he offered, “I’ll front whatever extra you need to get started.  I believe in this, and if you make a go of it…someday you can pay me back.”

That’s how we started, and after one year he WAS repaid.

There have been issues, of course.  We’ve had our noses broken more than once – more doors slammed in our face than I care to count.  We’ve had credentials denied, access denied, and the fact of growing popularity denied.  Press Pros is simply different – different from the time-honored ways of covering sports.  But what couldn’t be denied was our commitment to write about what matters most to readers, their kids – area athletes brought to priority through a  style of narrative writing and in-the-moment photos.  It was the original business plan for Sports Illustrated, and it struck a chord for us.

Growing pains…we said goodbye to one of the original writers in 2015, college classmate Dale Meggas, from Cleveland.

Of course we found that you can never make everyone happy.  Regardless of size, you can never be at the right place, at the right time, for the right event every time.

Personnel is always an issue.  And yet, we’re fortunate to have one of the best writing staffs you can find anywhere – Hal McCoy, Greg Hoard, Doug Harris, Greg Billing, Mark Znidar, Joe Neves, Tom Cappell, the inevitable ‘player to be named later’ as the years pass, and a couple who used to write –  Chick Ludwig and Bruce Hooley.  And our only true full-timer has been associate editor Julie Wright, who shoots, edits, does page design, ad management, and publishing.

Hard…very hard, to say goodbye to Stan Wilker in June, 2018, and Jim Morris in September.

Sadly, we’ve lost some of the best, too – dear friends like Dale Meggas, Stan Wilker, Jim Morris, and photographer Jay Roman.  Trust it, those were the darkest days of Press Pros Magazine.

We’ve come a ways – a LONG ways.  Back in those first twelve months we generated about 100,000 visitors to the site, 10,000 unique IPs, and just under a million impressions.  And if you wonder, an impression is a view of page content along with the ads.  It quickly grew.

At the three-year mark those figures tripled.  At the five-year mark they tripled again.  And at the decade mark we’ve doubled down.  For the past twelve months, ending June 30, 2019, we stand at just under 13 million annual readers (online and email), 3 million computers (IPs), and 41 million impressions of daily content and ads.  The average small business can now be seen a minimum of 750,000 times a year on Press Pros, depending on where their ad appears.

Still, we can’t be everything;  and neither can the New York Times.  But we can be mindful of our market and support, and appreciation for what we do best.  That said, we listen, and continue to expand coverage to new sports.  At the suggestion of OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass, we added bowling last year and discovered an entirely different market of interest – packed bowling alleys when we showed up on Saturdays, and a new surge in readership.  Who knew?  Jerry knew!

We’ve always been around for college football and basketball, but a few years ago we took another leap of faith, to college baseball…because nobody else had.  And in that time we’ve developed a community of inveterate Ohio State fans who are just as willing to read and follow them in baseball as they are in football – 800,000 hits in 2019.

Our scholar-athlete scholarship program continues to grow, keeping our word to schools and sponsors who wondered about our commitment.  And actually, we haven’t heard that now for a long time.  This past June we awarded our $60,000th dollar to area graduates.

To that friend’s challenge to help small business…we’re still a great place to get the word out, game by game, house by house, county by county.  And to those who might have said, “It wouldn’t last” – well, I can now say that it may outlast me.

But more important, given the events of these past few days…it’s nice to put out a little good news in which we can all agree and find comfort – optimism.

Thanks to you all…and enjoy!

 

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