At first glance, starting a new magazine would seem to be familiar territory for the Destlers, who had already founded and published British Car, a successful bimonthly magazine for automobile enthusiasts. The market certainly seemed larger and more lucrative—the U.S. has more than 9 million kids playing baseball compared with only 50,000 British automobiles. But as the Destlers researched their potential market, they realized that this larger market also meant a larger, more complicated management and financial commitment.
By selling British Car, the Destlers were able to augment their SBA loan and devote their full attention to Junior Baseball. They spent the first year building the product and attracting advertisers. With the help of a five-person staff, the first issue rolled off the presses in September 1996, and Junior Baseball appeared to be on its way to the big leagues of publishing. Circulation lagged behind projections, however, and by the end of its second year, Junior Baseball was in a financial slump. "We had counted on a large amount of newsstand sales," Dayna explains, "but increased competition among small publishers made it difficult for us to get shelf space."
The magazine now has over 10,000 paid subscribers, and thousand more readers through complimentary subscriptions and other promotional programs. Junior Baseball has also earned official endorsements from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the United States Amateur Baseball Association (USABA), USA Baseball, and more than a dozen other national youth and baseball organizations. The Destlers have added a website that offers articles from back issues, a listing of youth baseball camps and schools, and a youth baseball tournament calendar. "We recently introduced a book and video store that has tested very well," Dayna says. "We're working on increasing the range of selections and hope to add it to the website soon."
In 1999, the Destlers' profit topped $100,000. Still, the couple is managing the magazine's growth carefully. Dave oversees editorial, ad sales and production, while Dayna handles finances, marketing, subscription services, and circulation with the help of two part-time employees. In recent months, Dusty, now 17, has joined the team to conduct Junior Baseball's interviews with Big League players. "I think they enjoy talking to Dusty more than Dave because they remember being baseball-hungry kids too," says Dayna with a laugh. Then there's 12-year-old daughter Deanne, who occasionally helps with mailroom chores. Deanne enjoys playing softball, and, not surprisingly, the Destlers are considering adding another magazine focused on that sport.