White's goal set in stone: Pitch in majors


Matt White says he still is living check to check, which is like John Daly saying he has gone five minutes without a beer. Eventually, things are destined to change.

Eventually, Daly will pop open a cold Budweiser before his next round of golf, and White could be wealthy enough to purchase Anheuser-Busch.

"I'm not a billionaire," White said. "I'm not. I've got a few grand in the bank, and I'm just trying to get to the big leagues."

One small difference: He's chasing the dream with a nest egg the size of Europe.

White is a left-handed reliever for the 51s who has been fairly dominating early this season and yet is known more for a type of rock formed more than 400 million years ago than an 0.96 ERA formed the past two weeks.

Here is a quick synopsis in case you have been living under a rock, which isn't all that bad if it happens to be resting on part of 50 acres White purchased from an aunt in 2003 (price tag: $50,000) when she needed money to pay for a nursing home.

The property is in western Massachusetts, and when White began clearing it, he noticed stone ledges in the ground. He and his father, a lifetime logger, eventually began to wonder how much of the rock was on the property.

Talk about fun math: A geologist estimated they were in possession of 24 million tons of valuable stone. The going price is $100 per ton, which works out to more than $2 billion for the stuff on which your son rides his skateboard and the patio where you hold barbecues and those pavers you stroll across out in that impeccably landscaped garden.

"I still work as hard as ever," White said. "I'm not taking baseball for granted by any means. I think it has taken the edge off a little because of the potential of what it could mean down the road as far as the financial part of it. But my passion and dreams are still the same.

"My passion is to get to the big leagues and be a baseball player. It's not to be working up at some rock quarry digging out stone the rest of my life."

It's a nice sound bite.

Proving it is an entirely different matter.

White overnight has become the ideal case study for the notion that contentment comes not solely from riches but rather the enjoyment of accomplishment. He is 29 and has tried achieving the same goal for nine years and only sniffed it, having found himself in a total of seven major league games with the Red Sox, Mariners and Nationals.

Impending wealth might secure a more lavish and relaxing lifestyle, but it won't make a major league team promote you as a left-handed specialist any faster. Ned Colletti reminded White of this in spring training, when the Dodgers general manager politely offered this message:

Those in Los Angeles don't care how many stones White owns, only how many batters he retires.

White says none of this has diluted his desire to make the majors and stick. He seems as genuine as someone with such immense security possibly could, and his numbers entering Wednesday's game against Colorado Springs (9 1/3 innings, five hits, one earned run) suggest his mind is on pitching more than any mica schist stone from the Devonian period (translation: really, really expensive rock).

Things might be different if this were his first season of pro ball and he again was staring at that long and tedious progression most minor leaguers face. But he has made that journey through cities with names such as Watertown and Kinston and Sarasota and Pawtucket and Scranton.

Why stop now?

"From the day I met him in spring training, he has been a class guy," 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "Maybe because he hasn't dug up all the rock yet or whatever, he's still a class guy who goes about his business. I know how badly he wants to pitch in the big leagues.

"I don't think this will change him. He's always talking about his mom and dad and grandparents. It seems like his upbringing was a really good one, and it's tough to change when that kind of foundation is laid."

White has sold some of the rock and is about to have more blown up to fill waiting orders. He employs no crew. It's pretty much his father handling things. He says it's more Mom-and-Pop operation than anything right now. More fantasy money than reality.

Eventually, that should change.

"If he wants to shovel on over a few grand, that's OK," Bundy said. "I'm not that proud."

Who among us is?

Ed Graney's column is published Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

 

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