Back in 2007, a story broke on the national sports news wire. Matt White, a journeyman pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, had pitched seven games in nine Major League seasons and seemed destined to cling to his baseball dreams at no higher than a triple-A level. In 2003, he had purchased a 50-acre plot of land in Cummington, Massachusetts from his aunt for $50,000. White’s aunt desperately needed the money to move to a nursing home, and he happily provided it, but perhaps she might have been served better sticking with the Northern Massachusetts property. While attempting to build a home on the land in 2004 White noticed that the ground was peculiarly hard and immovable. He found rock ledges on the property and decided to learn more about the spacious land he was now in possession of. He hired a surveyor to come inspect his property to gather more info and to hopefully shed some light on his building troubles. He was shocked when he heard the surveyor’s report.
Matt White’s new 50-acre property was sitting on top of an estimated 24 million tons of 400 million year old Goshen Stone – with an estimated value of over $2 billion!
Initially, White said that his one true calling was baseball and that he wouldn’t be hanging up his cleats just for some real estate fortune he had by chance happened upon. The manager of the Dodger’s Grady Little was quoted saying “The kid has a genuine love for the game. He’s quite a competitor, he’s always striving to get better. It’s not about money for him. He’s prepared himself well coming into camp and he’ll be going after somebody’s job. He’ll be given an opportunity.” Little added, “Along the way, if anybody needs landscaping stone, we know where to find it.” Unfortunately that opportunity never came for Matt White. Since the story broke, he has not pitched in another Major League game. Over time, his focus more sternly shifted to being a legitimate stone entrepreneur.
Shortly after the discovery of his quarry, and amidst the swirling chatter of his new found billions, (teammates call him Mr. Billionaire) an article was written by Matt Reis, editor of StoneWorld.com, titled “Stick to Baseball, Matt.” Reis cites a study of Colorado- based stone discoveries noting that 20 out of 20 of the sites surveyed none of them, zero, were commercially viable – speculating that White’s property might be worthless if it’s uneconomical for commercial quarrying. At first glance this article might be filed in the “sour grapes” category, but upon reading further Mr. Reis has a point.
The original $2 billion-plus estimate was mightily overblown, as he said that money for machinery, labor, proper plans for excavation, and processing the stone to make it ready for retail sale all eat up a healthy portion of that original figure – which was too high to begin with.
Reis was partially correct in thinking that the find wasn’t worth nearly $2 billion, but he was wrong in assuming that the property wouldn’t be commercially viable. Around the time of the discovery Matt White began Swift River Stone, a small-scale stone supply company. He brought his father in to help manage, an occupation he holds to this day. Right away they made $600,000 selling stone of various cuts and varieties, and sales have been steady since. With just him and his father working the machines and overseeing the vast amount of excavating, the business truly stays within the family.
I talked to Matt White and he was candid about his unusual situation.
“It was tough on my family, you know, being around town and people [assuming] we had all this money. It was hard on my parents,” White said.
Initially he hated all of that “Mr. Billionaire” talk and the overblown media stories of buried stone treasure, but today he sees this for the opportunity that it is: a great property to excavate stone and turn a generous profit, all while keeping it comfortably within the family. The property is currently on the market for “the right price,” but there’s no urgent rush to unload the land and the stone just yet – not when the business only continues to grow.
White still wakes up every day and trains like the pitcher he hopes to still become. After a year of surgeries and setbacks he hopes to sign an Independent League contract and show Major League scouts that, besides the hype surrounding his quarry, he can still strike professional batters out with the best of them. He most recently took the mound for the Yokohama BayStars in Japan, but was released in August of 2008. After turning down a spot on the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, a baseball team in Taiwan, this past January, White chose to stay home to continue to oversee the quarry, which he said will provide enough rock to excavate and sell throughout him and his children’s lifetimes. He now embraces his situation and understands the quality investment he’s stumbled upon. He said he’s always trying to meet new people in the industry and tries to expand his business sales flow as much as he can, as well as expanding the variety and quality of the products he offers.
From America’s pastime to the American Dream, stone has changed the life of one man, and provided a great example of the eye-popping riches juxtaposed with the buckets-of-sweat inducing labor that comes part-and-parcel with rock excavation. We wish you only the best of luck in the quarry and on the mound, Mr. White.