Sports social network gets $5 million cash infusion

Yardbarker (old slang for a home run) says it brought in new funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and angel investors including former Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.

Yardbarker, a social network for athletes and their fans, has joined the pack of new venture-funded sports sites.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based Yardbarker (old slang for a home run) said this week that it raised $5 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and a group of its early angel investors. In the spring of 2007, the company brought in an undisclosed sum from angels including Russ Siegelman, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Jarl Mohn, former CEO of Liberty Digital and a director at News.com publisher CNET Networks; and Ronnie Lott, former 49ers Hall of Famer.

The market for emerging sports media sites is filling up quickly, in what's surely a warning shot to existing players ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Weplay , for example, recently launched a social network for youth sports and said it raised $4.5 million from hedge fund Pequot Capital and sports figures like Derek Jeter. Virtual-world maker Numedeon also unveiled a new virtual world for sports fans called SportsBlox and has raised capital to finance that venture.

Pete Vlastelica, CEO and co-founder of Yardbarker, said his site is different because it's a destination site for fans and athletes that features blogs from sports stars, as well as a network of 300 affiliated blogs. The company syndicates content to and from its network of blogs, and sells advertising against that network. Vlastelica said he plans to use the new funds to hire engineering and sales staff.

"We have a real opportunity to differentiate (ourselves) through our technology so we're not just an ad network," Vlastelica said. "This is a new type of media company with a hub that directs traffic around the network, so we can run custom ads."

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