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'Giant Jersey Guy' ready to resolve conflicts
Verb also serving as professional neutral party with Action Mediation
01/23/2015 10:00 AM ET
Doug Verb, who made a name for himself with enormous jerseys, is focused on keeping conflicts small. (Benjamin Hill/MiLB.com)

While in the process of describing his latest business venture, Doug Verb found it pertinent to quote the wise words of Abraham Lincoln.

"Discourage litigation; encourage your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser -- in fees, expenses and waste of time."

Lincoln's observation neatly summarizes the motivation behind Action Mediation, Verb's attempt to, yes, discourage litigation and encourage compromise within the world of professional sports. Have an issue with a sponsor? A concessionaire? An insurance provider? Verb is a licensed mediator -- a "professional neutral," as he puts it -- with four decades of sports industry experience.

"It doesn't matter what the conflict is -- it's a mutual problem to be solved by a collaborative effort," said Verb, who is based in Las Vegas. "I'm the third party, creating a triangle out of what was a broken line between two people."

* * *

If you work in Minor League Baseball, then you are almost certainly familiar with Verb. And if you're a fan, then you are probably familiar with his main line of work. Verb is known throughout the industry as the "Giant Jersey Guy," a self-explanatory descriptor if there ever was one. His company, Action Sports America, is best known for selling the inflatable customized team jerseys that can be found in (or outside of) Minor League stadiums across the country. Verb is a can't-miss presence at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show, as he's the guy standing in front of a 15-foot tall inflatable jersey. But at last month's Winter Meetings in San Diego, he was pitching his mediation services as well.


"With the giant jerseys, I have more Minor League Baseball clients than from anywhere else. And they are also open to new ideas more than anyone else and always budget conscious," he said. "Word will get out [about Action Mediation]. The key thing is that this is something new and different. I've been working on this a year and haven't found anyone who does this within the world of sports."

Getting into this line of work was simply a case of one thing leading to another for Verb.

"About two years ago, I read that, here in Las Vegas, the courts are so inundated that they decided that small claims disputes would all have to go to mediation before they came to court," he said. "The dockets were too full. I thought, 'That's interesting -- I wonder who does the mediation?. I looked into it and found something called the Neighborhood Justice Center. … I did their training, it was me and 23 [University of Nevada Las Vegas] law students who were 30 years younger than me.

"There's a lot behind this," he continued. "In how you elicit answers, the different formats you follow. We did play cases back and forth, which was great. After about 40 hours of training, they told me 'Get a mentor and do pro bono work.' My mentor, she does a lot of big cases here in Vegas, a lot with government and the mining industry. I started doing pro bono cases for the Neighborhood Justice Center. Animal Control cases were the toughest. Someone says 'That's not my dog barking!' and other says 'Yes, it is.' It's almost funny, but of course, you never laugh."

Armed with these experiences, Verb began to market his services to the sports industry specifically. As he puts it, "In the sports business, you're always negotiating.

"The first four people I spoke to [in the sports industry] all said the same thing. 'Oh, we don't have any issues,'" said Verb. "Really? You're running a multi-million dollar business and you don't have issues? As a for-instance, there are landlord-tenant [stadium] issues. Issues with sponsors, concessionaires, insurance claims like slip-and-falls. It's people! People have problems with other people. After I say all that, I hear, 'Well, yeah, I guess you're right.'"

Verb has done three cases thus far, the first of which was a successful effort within the world of Minor League Baseball.

"I can't get into specifics, but a big part of this case was that, even if you have an issue with someone, you're still probably going to be working with them," he said. "Tomorrow's another game. You still might have to face that guy who won't sell you the hot dogs at the price he promised. If someone is injured in a slip-and-fall, you still want that person to be a fan. ...You want people to leave on good terms and for everyone to feel satisfied. Especially in Minor League Baseball -- it's a very small industry, and everybody knows everybody.

"You go about it the same way with each kind of case. You give people the opportunity to tell their side of the story. One person talks at a time, and you get the 'What do you want?' from each person," he continued. "If you can get the feelings out, that's usually what it's all about. People want to be heard. And if you can't come to a conclusion, you do an individual caucus, and I hear things they might not want to say in front of the other person. ... It comes down to giving people a chance to express themselves, let the other party know how they're feeling. If you do that, you have the means to come to a conclusion. ...You want to keep it out of the courts, so there's no litigation, so you can stop the legal bills."

Which brings us back to the wise words of our 16th president.

"Abraham Lincoln said that in 1850, but it sounds like something that would be said now," said Verb. "The nominal winner is often the real loser, so compromise whenever you can."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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