The Blast's failure to make the Major Soccer League playoffs is taking a harder toll than imagined.
It was learned last night that the Blast has laid off three people in its front office: Tim Donelli, assistant vice president/general manager; Art Sinclair, director of corporate sales and broadcasting; and receptionist Leah Miller.
Miller definitely will be rehired this fall, Blast general manager John Borozzi said last night. Sinclair and Donelli, however, are in a different situation. They were given four days notice and will be permanently laid off, without benefit of severance pay or accrued vacation time.
"These are purely budgetary moves," Borozzi said. "And it is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I had to tell them they had done all I've asked and more, but that I had to let them go."
While the decision was made by owner Ed Hale, Borozzi said he is in total agreement with it.
"We simply couldn't carry this staff," Borozzi said. "This is the first time we've had layoffs and the first time the Blast hasn't made the playoffs. It's six months until our next game. This is the only way to make economic sense out of it."
Reached at their homes last night, Sinclair and Donelli voiced differing feelings.
"The word stunned would take second place to devastated," said Sinclair. "Ed is the consummate businessman and this is one of the things he had to do. I don't know what I'm going to do."
Sinclair, who has been the Blast's play-by-play radio voice since the team's inception, quit his full-time job as television handicapper at Pimlico and Laurel race tracks last summer to join the Blast organization full time.
As director of corporate sales, Sinclair said he saw sales in his department go up 40 percent over the previous year.
"John said the layoff had nothing to do with my performance," Sinclair said. "And he expressed to me that he'd like me to come back and do the team's radio and television broadcasts next season. But that, of course, depends on what my next job is and whether I'm available."
For Donelli, the layoff was startling, but not depressing. He had spent seven years with the Skipjacks and another three working for former Oriole Pat Kelly and his Christian outreach organization before joining the Blast in November 1989.
"No one likes being laid off," Donelli said. "But my faith is a great comfort. My feeling is God has things for me other than the Blast and I'm excited to see what's coming up."
Donelli added, "If you're going to get let go, it's good it's for economic reasons than any other I can think of. I've made a few calls and John said he'd recommend me highly."