Lee Semrau's venture into running a sports franchise began with answering a Craigslist ad. For $1,000 Semrau became the owner of an Ultimate Frisbee team.
"I had no idea what it was but I'm a huge sports fan," Semrau said. "For that price I said, 'Why not?' If it works out, great, if not at least I kicked the can."
The can eventually found its way into the Hunter's Hope Foundation. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, recently announced a partnership with Semrau and his Buffalo Hunters, named for the Kelly's son Hunter who was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy and died in 2005.
The Hunters, playing their first season in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) are donating 10 percent of their profits to Hunter's Hope and 50 percent of the profits from a select home game.
"I didn't have a name for the team but I wanted the name to be linked to a charity," said Semrau, a native of Western New York who lives in the Town of Tonawanda. "Since I was already donating to that charity, it seemed like a natural fit. I have six daughters and I'm fortunate enough that they're all healthy. I just figured what better charity than one that's trying to make it so babies have a fair chance in life?"
Semrau said Jill Kelly, who was unavailable to comment, told him she was thrilled that there was a team in Buffalo that would carry on the name of her son.
"Jim and I are humbled by the opportunity to be involved with the Buffalo Hunters," Jill Kelly said in a statement released by Hunter's Hope Foundation. "To have a team named [after] our one and only son, Hunter, and to see his legacy carried on in such a fun and exciting way is such a blessing and honor. We are excited for the season and to share our Foundation's mission with the fans."
Semrau purchased the team in 2010 and the AUDL held its first owners meeting last June in Pittsburgh. The Hunters are in the Eastern Division with the Philadelphia Spinners, Connecticut Constitution and Rhode Island Rampage. The Western Division consists of the Bluegrass Revolution, Columbus Cranes, Detroit Mechanix and Indianapolis AlleyCats. The eight-team league expands to 16 in 2013.
The Hunters are currently 0-4, the lone winless team in the league.
"Typical Buffalo record," Semrau said, laughing. "You have to understand, the sport's not big here, it's bigger in Rochester."
Rosters consist of 25 players, including five taxi squad members. The Hunters' first home game is 2 p.m. Sunday at Orchard Park High School. Single game tickets start at $6; it's $30 for season tickets.
"Once you see the sport," Semrau said, "you'll love it."