Brandon Steiner For The Love of The Game

by Ari Schonbrun

Brandon Steiner For The Love of The Game




Brandon Steiner founder and former CEO of Steiner Sports. He is currently the founder and CEO of CollectibleXchange and The Steiner Agency.  Shares his story of being a poor kid from Brooklyn who loved the Yankees to creating an amazingly successful business that has an exclusive memorabilia partnership with the team. He will describe the many bricks he faced in starting his business, his personal life, and how 9-11 affected him. He will describe what he is doing now and how many people along his journey helped him listen to the whispers.


Episode Transcription


Ari: Welcome to Whispers And  Bricks. My name is Ari Schonburn, and I’m your host. I have a very special guest on this today for this episode. His name is Brandon Steiner. I’m sure if you’re in the sports world, you certainly have heard that name for sure. I met Brandon about 28 years ago, when I was working at Cantor Fitzgerald. He just started his business. And he helped us along the way with tickets to sporting events and arranging for for some of our guys to meet some sports stars support celebrities. But this is let’s let’s talk about a little bit about Brandon is a poor kid in Brooklyn, Brandon Steiner lived for the summer days when he could scrounge together enough change to make the subway trip to Yankee Stadium, buy the cheapest ticket available and bask in the era of his favorite baseball team for a few hours. Little could branded have known then that one day his name would be linked with the team in exclusive memorabilia partnership that he owned some very valuable pieces from that very stadium. In 1987. Brandon established Steiner associates later renamed Steiner Sports with only $4,000, a one room office and an intern. By the late 90s. Steiner Sports had dozens of employees and representing most of the big name athletes in New York, was about the same time that the company expanded its business focus to include marketing collectible items. Brandon’s unprecedent, in partnership with the New York Yankees, announced in 2004 provided a way to offer fans authentic Yankees memorabilia, and one of the kind fantasy experiences at Yankee Stadium. In 2008, Brandon created yet another unique market for itself by purchasing the exclusive rights to major portions of the soon to be disassembled old Yankee Stadium so that Steiner Sports can develop an entire authentic stadium product line that will provide fans with once in a lifetime opportunities to take home seats, signs, bricks from Monument Park, and hundreds of other unique pieces which gave the old stadium its storied history. Brandon has become a media personality as a regular guest on 98.7 FM, ESPN, New York radio and co host of the s networks Yankees Steiner memories of the game series. He is frequently utilized as an expert commentator on sports and marketing on national news networks, including CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and ESPN and newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He also made several appearances on MLB TV network while promoting the MLB fan cave. Brandon is the author is the author of three books living on purpose stories about faith, fortune and fitness that will lead you to an extraordinary life. You got to have balls how a kid from Brooklyn started from scratch bought Yankee Stadium and created a sports empire. And last but not least, the business playbook Leadership Lessons from the world of sports. Brandon resides in Scarsdale, New York with his wife Marah and their two children. He bleeds Syracuse orange and of great joy Tim are the weekly basketball games he also said is home for his employees and friends. Please help me welcome Brandon Steiner. How are you doing Brandon?.


Brandon: I’m great. Everything’s good boy. Keep going. Yeah, well, the boring thing is I’m not at Steiner anymore. Steiners not at Steiner.


Ari: Oh, really amazing. 

Brandon: Yeah, I mean, I started I left Steiner and started a new company, collectible exchange. And then in two weeks, we are launching beginning of April, I should say. Athlete direct is a website you can buy directly from players themselves. And then collectible exchange is like a better form of eBay. We you can sell and buy some of the coolest collectibles just really, really cool site with about 50,000 items on there already and growing rapidly. So a new company new game. Wow. And it was great. But this is better. You know, and I’m just feeling feeling it.


Ari: What I’m thinking is there’s no keeping standard down.


Brandon: Well, what why me you got this beautiful gift of life that you know, you get pretty here. And I’ve done some really amazing things I’m grateful to be a part of with some amazing people and just enjoy, keep going and I’m having fun doing it. When I stop having fun. I’ll stop doing it. But I don’t want to let a little bump in the road. Like a virus or you know, I thought the Steiner I’d kind of done everything I could do with that company. But I had a different view about what I want to do with collectibles and marketing. And now I’m able to do with a much freer rein.


Ari: That’s great. Well, I gotta tell you, that is one incredible resume. All right, and congrats on everything that you’ve accomplished. Now I have a question. Obviously, growing up, you’re a huge Yankee fan. All right, I get it. All right. Did you ever play baseball at any level?


Brandon: No. I mean, I got chosen in because they needed another guy on softball. I wasn’t a very good baseball player. I just went to a batting cage. We did a clinic a month ago at Marion are there, which I was always threatening that I could hit them no problem at the cutter, you know, so I got in the cage. And he wasn’t even throwing hard. It was hard. And he’s been retired for a bunch of years. But yeah, I mean, I was I was not a guy that was like, you know, I hurt my arm. I blew up my knee. I was this athlete that almost made it. I was a wreck. Player. I play hard. I enjoy playing sports. You know, I was decent basketball player, but never on a level that for any semblance of like, Wow, you got to see this guy play. Wow. I gotta


Ari: Tell you a funny story. Okay. The rabbi in my, in my synagogue, okay, when he was young, when he was a young man, he loved baseball. And he played he was he was a shortstop. And he was, he was great. He grew up in the Bronx. And he was walking, he ended a couple of friends, his walk in one day on a not a very safe area, and a couple of three or four guys that were looking for trouble. And they spotted him. And they started to walk towards him. And these guys, you know, the rabbi, he got really, really nervous. And they all got really nervous, then all of a sudden, one of the guys turned says, Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s Dave. He’s our shortstop. Alright, these guys are okay, we can leave them alone.


Brandon:That’s great. Yeah, sports is something that brings everybody together. And, you know, having been in this business for so long, I mean, you know, in a lot of ways, sports plays such a vital role. Even in this virus, I think it’s very courageous with these teams and players have done to fight through and detain us at a time when there are people that wouldn’t even leave our house. So I give them a lot of credit. And then on the other hand, I think that sometimes sports is a little blown out of proportion. And we put too much emphasis on it. But I think there’s some great learning lessons from sports, which makes it really even more dynamic. And you can use sports as a great tool to show your kid no point is to work hard, be a team player, you know, those kinds of things. So it’s interesting industry, you know, when I got into it, it wasn’t that big a deal. It’s certainly gotten to be a big deal over these last 35 years. Yeah, for sure.


Ari: Now, as you know, the name of this broadcast today with this podcast is whispers and bricks, the whispers of those voices telling you what the right thing to do is, and they represent the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. You know, we all know that life is not a straight line, there are many ups and downs, and many, many bumps in the road. Now, on the surface, you seem to have had a great life, great career. But as I said, Every so often life throws a curveball at you. Let me ask you, this life hit us with a brick. And my biggest brick was 911. And the whispers helped me through with my miraculous escape. Now my listeners would like to know, first and foremost, what was the impact of 911 on you, personally, and professionally.


Brandon:I mean, you know, 911 came in the middle of my buyout when I just sold my company. So the first thing that comes to mind is that, you know, I lost a whole bunch of money. I know that sounds selfish, but, you know, I was a Free Self consumed and absorbed with my business, and at the peak of earning a lot, a lot of money. But it was very dramatic. You know, obviously, you know, can or I had a friend of Canada who passed, they were friends, I knew that passed. And I saw, you know, the city that I grew up in and love and disarray. So it was was, I think the good that I got out of 911 was that it showed that the power of all of us were better than some of us, it showed that we can get together. And by being nicer and having more empathy is really the trick and we got that for a while and then we lost it again. Now this virus has kind of brought back the empathy and being kind and ungrateful. I think gratitude is so important on every level, in every situation is got to be one of the ingredients of whatever you’re cooking. And I think that sometimes we as New Yorkers, I can’t speak for the rest of the planet. But I know that every religion talks about the importance of being kind and having gratitude. I think in New York, we get such a grind. It takes over for the G word as opposed to instead of getting into a higher level of gratitude, because New Yorkers are good people. They’re just sometimes we just get so overly intense. And 911 really shook us up and shook us down to the point where we all started getting a lot more appreciative of for our firemen for our hospital workers and first responders and I think I think that when you get these kinds of transitions of high level adversity, you got to try to try to find the silver lining and try to have a lot of faith that there will be some good things that will come out of it. And that life is life is tough, man, it’s gonna throw you some curveballs. And it’s not always pretty and certainly 911 was not pretty. We know that a big change in how we look at security and a whole bunch of things that we now had alter our behavior with. So it was dramatic.


Ari: I hear I remember, as you said, you know, New York change, right after 911 everybody was like, flags were flying all over the place, everybody was nice to each other kind to each other. The city totally, totally changed. And as you also said, unfortunately, it lasted for about six months. And then after that, it just went right back to what it was before, fortunately, or unfortunately. But you’re right. In other words, when when when push comes to shove New Yorkers or New Yorkers are right, and they’re going to do whatever it takes in order to in order to keep going. And I firmly believe that and I think you do, too.


Brandon:I think what I’ve learned about New York is it’s like the guy in the desert, you know, she’s trucking through the desert and stumbles upon a rattlesnake. And the rattlesnakes, please, please, the sun’s gonna go down in about an hour and I’m not well, and if you don’t wrap around me and put your coat over me to keep me warm, I’m gonna die. And the guy’s like, you’re a rattlesnake. There’s no way I’m doing that. You’re gonna bite and you’re gonna kill me. And around snakes? No, no, please, please, please, you gotta please don’t let me go. Leave me wrap me around your body, and then put your photo of me so I can live. And finally the rattlesnake wins over and the wraps are the rattlesnake brown his body puts the blank in his jacket over him. And the next morning, the guy wakes up. And he realized he’s been bitten by a rattlesnake. He says to rattlesnake Damn, how could you do that to me, you know, shamed you. I did everything for you to keep you alive. And you bite me. In the round snake says we want me to do I’m a rattlesnake. And you know, at the end of the day, I feel like a little bit. You know, one of the depressing things about New Yorkers is this. There’s nobody more vibrant. There’s nobody more gritty. There’s nobody more intense than the New Yorkers. But when New Yorkers and it’s hard to have the empathy and the kindness that you really, you kind of think at some point, you want to have more of the fight to other parts of the country, other parts of the world. And you wonder is like, do I want to go the distance? least that’s what I think about they want to go the distance, living this insane environment, which has been really lucrative and great for me. But it’d be nice to be in a world and a community and work in a community which a little bit later. Yeah,


Ari: I hear you. So let me ask you this other than 911, what was some of the struggles and or failures, if any, some of the bricks that you got hit with when you were starting out in your career or throughout your career? 


Brandon:What was I mean, there’s so many I mean, I’m, I mean, there’s so many, and it’s just so many, so many bricks. I mean, besides the shots, I take the clank when I’m playing basketball, you know, I mean, it starts when I was 10. I mean, I mean, the first brick was even just getting quoted in front of the classroom. And the teacher gave me an envelope of money and say, you know, it took a collection, Peter, buy some clothes. I was like, how do you know any clothes? He said, Well, you are wearing the same pants for three weeks in a row. And so how do you know that? He said, Well, you got to rip in the right knee. And I remember the pants distinctly to this day and we’ll show you millionaire I went home to my mother. And she said, Well, you’re in between sides of course we’re going to buy you clothes. But when I went back to my room as I can some doesn’t seem right. This is a kid who don’t realize how poor you are. You just know you know, but I realized we didn’t have the near anywhere near the essentials. Clothing food. I tried to told my mom right then and as I’m going to go get a job. Now, if anybody listening like you have a 1011 year old, just getting him down for breakfast, getting dressed and brush your teeth is a chore. I’m getting up and going to work. And I mean, on my own out and just going out into the neighborhood in Brooklyn, and literally for six seven hours going to every store and asked if they need any help. I can’t even imagine what that even looked like a 10 year old walk into every store on Kings Highway which is a long street and saying hey, you need any help and we’re going to sweep clean deliver and I did find a job ready to fruit man hired me to deliver food vegetables. So that was like my first brick. I mean, you know so many bricks me even the you know, just thinking back on it really fluent when when I was almost running out of money in 98. And I went in and I was almost broke. And I was at the height things were starting to pop. And I had this project I was working on I ran out of money. And then I go to the bank and the guy says I’ll give you a loan. I like your idea. I like You had no idea what I was talking about, obviously, but I loved what I was talking about. And I was I was dealing with a perfect game David Wells 98 Yankee idea. And I was 200,000 short to complete it. And the guy said, Well, you have to sign your take a second mortgage on your house and you want this $22,000 loan. As I turned to my wife and said, We got to get out of here, we’re done. And my wife, no way, sign that paper, we’re fine. I love your idea. And my wife’s name and a sports fan, but she believed in me. So sometimes when you hit a brick wall, what seems to be correct, you’d be surprised what comes out of the woodwork that can save you or enter the amount of faith or confidence that you need. So I think sometimes God does give you not always what you want. But I think God can supply you a lot of ways what you need.


Ari:Yeah, you know, they always say that God will never give you a challenge that you can’t manage. Right? It’s, you know, and I’ve seen all kinds of people and you know, in all kinds of situations, you know, they lost children, or, you know, the terminal illnesses and the like, and I look at some of these people, and I say, God, I don’t know how to get up in the morning. And yet they do. And I said, You know what, because God gave them something that they can handle, because I don’t know if I could handle that. But they could and that’s why it happened to them, so to speak. So it’s amazing. So you did reach a point from what I’m understanding you you actually reached a point where you said you know what, I’m done. I quit I’m not doing this. I don’t care about my dreams. Not gonna happen. And your wife was was the was the woman with the whispers telling you? No, dammit, sign the damn piece of paper, because we’re going to do this. Yeah.


I was feeling like, maybe we were going to be done. Yeah, I feel like I don’t know where else to get the money, which was very foolish. Because I probably could have gone 60 ways to Sunday to get the money. Now I look back on it, but I didn’t know better at the time. Right. So you know, sometimes, you know, the people around you are so important to that kid that making sure that they believe in you make sure that there’s for you. And I would add a problem. My wife said we’re not signing that. I think she had every right to say that’s it. So it was good that she gave me instilled me that confidence. I remember, you know, when I got fired from Hyatt Hotels, my dream job. I’ve been there two and a half years, three promotions. And I got some political problems with a couple of high level managers. They just did me in wasn’t because I was doing a bad job, but it didn’t matter. So I called my mother. My mother was my guru. And I named the second book after that I wrote three books you got to have balls was our favorite line. So well my mother off I go cube Lee with these people did. And I was working 90 hours a week, killing myself. You know, I opened up a hotel down in Auburn Baltimore, and QB what these people did, they screwed me over. And this is not right. And my mother’s like Brandon, Hyde hotels is growing leaps and bounds. They’re looking for good people that can’t afford the fire good people. Obviously a little rough around the edges, you got some kinks and some things to work out. And give me a shoulder to cry on, as you bet and start figuring out some of those things you need to improve on. So when you get into these kinds of situations, you know how to work through them. And that’s when I went to the bookstore. And boy, I was I mean I was devastated losing this job. It was my dream job. I and I went and started picking up every book self help book, Harvey Mackay, Norman Vincent Peale, Augmon, Dino, Dale Carnegie, and I’m not a huge reader. But I read every book about how to be better, more positive. How to manage yourself all those things. And it was my mother, you know, it’s like, you know, maybe ain’t as good as you think your fire good people.


So that So my next question, obviously, who’s the one person you can point to that had the most influence on your life? I think you just answered that question must have been your mom.


I mean, my mom was incredibly influential. And probably my second book could have just been everything my mother taught me and I made a ton of money off of it. Alfie Jackson was a hatmaker in Philly, who was like a father to me. You know, I grew up in a single parent home. He was a black, really creative, big, big man. He was a chef in a kitchen, a camp that I worked in for all my high school and college days. And he was the one who really had a huge influence on me really growing up, pointing me in the right direction. You know, he’s just call me white boy, and he picked me up, you can pick me up in his hand, he grabbed my hand and picked me up. That’s how big he was. Two very intimidating, but incredibly soft soul and a great mentor and teacher. And he was really the one that really brought the leadership out in me taught me how to manage people told me what was important about managing people and also pointed me and really pushed me to go to college, and why should go to college. So you know, he really and he gave me a trait. That was a great plan B. So here I have killed myself, but if everything went bad, I’d always be excited to work in a kitchen, cook, and work my way through. He really was a tremendous mentor in every way. And the most important thing he did was on my first date with my wife, which I was gonna blow off my wife and then camp. I kind of as no way might, this girl’s gonna want to go out me. I was supposed to meet her at this Playboy Club, which was near the camp. And he answered the phone. My my girlfriend at the time was girl I was gonna take out called. And he said, Well, Brandon’s supposed to be here is what he’s up into. Let me go check. So when he called me girlfriend, you know, Mary’s on the phone, she said, she’s meeting you at this club. But where are you at? She doesn’t want to, she’s not gonna want to hang out with me. And he’s like, why boy, get your butt up there. He will pick up a bottle of wine in your way. You really kick my ass. And as the reason why I went to play book club, that was my first date when my wife were marrying. And I mean, what do you say, you know, wow,


Ari: wow, I gotta tell you, I if this is so funny, because when I first went when I first met my wife, uh, you know, somebody gave me her name, you know, whatever, they wanted to set us up. I called her up. And she, she didn’t sound really appealing on the phone, so to speak. But, you know, I said, Alright, so what are you doing next week, whatever. And, and she said, No, nothing, whatever. I said, Okay. So let’s go out and you know, I’ll pick you up whatever. And the day of the date I’m looking at, I’m thinking to myself, Man, I just don’t want to do this. This is not something I want to do. You know, I could actually call my sister and I said, you don’t have this date. I really want to go on the date when I’m, what should I do? She goes, Ari, just go out. Worst case scenario, you have a nice dinner. And that’s it. And then you bring her home, you know, and it’s all over. And that’s it. Like, okay, I show up at her door. And as God as my witness. You know, I ring the bell. And this. Literally, I thought she was a goddess. I mean, she was like, the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t get beyond the fact that this face was the same person on the phone. And I looked at, I said, Joyce, and she goes, yeah, what like, and I’m thinking myself, Wow, did I strike? And we went out and I think six or eight weeks later, we were engaged.


Yeah, yeah, it was.


Yeah. Yeah. Listen, Brandon, you know, I want to thank you so much for coming on. You’ve you know, you got a lot of good, uh, got a lot of good advice for my, for my audience. I’ve watched your videos, I’ve watched you. I mean, you know, it’s, you’re an incredible individual. So let me just ask you one last thing. I know you’re involved in different charities and like if somebody wants to get in touch with you to get involved with one of your charities or something like that, what would be the best the best way for them to do that? Is there a website or


Brandon: I mean it to find out more information at, but you can get one of my books for free on collectible exchange or CX stuff, calm, just pay for the shipping. I’m giving away the books free and through the end of April. You know, what’s funny is I get behind so many different charities, when you follow me on social. I really diversify the things that I try to get behind. Because besides putting some money behind things, I think always have a marketing edge. And a big part of my new company collectible exchange is about doing more good. I don’t I’ve been really blessed. I’m very grateful for the support and the fandom that has come my way towards my brand and some of my crazy stupid ideas are selling bricks on autograph. But you know, I really want to take that and make more good out of it. Not necessarily more money. Obviously I’m a business to make money but I’m taking a big part of have my initiative is to do more. So my Facebook thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do. Pilots hop on with you.


Ari: Thanks so much for sharing your story to your audience. It was truly an eye opener and good luck going forward. Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day.Stay blessed to you too. Bye. Bye. Bye bye. You’ve been listening to whispers and bricks and I’m your host Gary Schoenbrunn. Until next time, listen to the whispers never give up on your dreams. Bye for now.