Gammons: Matt White still chasing dream
Despite stroke of luck with rock quarry, lefty eyes return
It was 13 years ago this week when Matt White started the Cape Cod League All-Star Game against Kip Wells. At the time he was a rising junior at Clemson, and he hoped that it was a day that would start him down Route 9 from his hometown of Pittsfield, Mass., to Fenway Park.
"Later that summer the Red Sox brought us in to Fenway for a workout," White remembers. "I was shagging in the outfield with Barry Zito, and we were dreaming the dream."
Matt White did make it to the big leagues for seven games for the 2003 Red Sox and Mariners and 2005 Nationals. He actually opened the 2003 season with the Red Sox, but they began their season on the road and he never made it back to Fenway. As time passed and he went through a half-dozen organizations and two seasons in Japan, White even became a legend, of sorts, when the story came out that rare rock known as Goshen stone was discovered on the 50-acre property he'd purchased in Cummington, Mass., and that the hill was worth more than $2.5 billion.
In fact, White was in Spring Training with the Dodgers when the story broke and then-manager Grady Little walked up to him and said, "There's a spot in the rotation that you can buy if you want it badly enough."
"Unfortunately, the story didn't say that we'd have to dig that rock out for about 25 years at $100 a ton to get to those billions," White says.
His great aunt owned a house on the hill and was very ill. White had some big league minimum money in the bank from his stints in Boston, Seattle and Washington and bought the house. He was plowing to build a road, came upon all the rock, and soon thereafter a geologist informed him the hill was loaded with the mica schist rock.
So now, at 32, White is working that hill with his father. Mornings and afternoons they dig. He drives the jackhammer. They cut the rock. You can go to swiftriverstone.net, the website of Swift River Stone, a company created by White and his father, to see all the uses for the rare mica schist flat stone formed 400 million years ago -- landscaping, tiles, decorative pebbles, upscale house sidings, etc. -- or visit their company in the Berkshires. They load the stones onto trucks and look for some large company to come buy the hill and the mining company for a few million.
That's the reality of the day job. Hard work. Jackhammers. Forklifts.
Then there's the night job with the Pittsfield Colonials of the Can-Am League, managed by Brian Daubach, at least when they're home; the road trips make it impossible to work the hill with his father. White is temporarily on the disabled list with a "tweaked" shoulder, but 13 years after starting the Cape League All-Star Game, the dream hasn't died.
"I'm about to get back in action," White says. "I still want one more shot. I'm throwing pretty well. I was at 88 to 92 [mph] with a change and breaking ball -- not 82 to 84 -- and I still believe I can come in and get left-handers out. If I can get regular work and then get a winter ball job and get seen, maybe I can get another shot in Spring Training and make it back for one more chance. I'm having a ball with Pittsfield. I love the league. I love the game."
Daniel Carte plays for the Colonials. He was the Cape Cod League MVP in 2004 playing for Falmouth with Jacoby Ellsbury, Cliff Pennington and Matt Antonelli, and was a second-round pick of the Rockies. He could hit. He knows that. He hasn't let go.
White knows big league travel and meal money. He knows you leave the ballpark, bus onto the tarmac to the plane, never go through security and have your keys handed to you by the traveling secretary when you get to the next hotel. That's not the way it is in the Can-Am League. A couple of weeks ago, it started raining during a Colonials game. "The grounds crew really didn't know how to put the tarp down," White says.
So he organized the players, who put the tarp on the field. The rain stopped. The players pulled the tarp. The game got played. "The game," says White, "is why we're here."
No one can ever take away the fact that Matt White is a Major League pitcher. You can look him up and see that in his three games for the Red Sox, three games with the Mariners and one 2005 start for the Nationals his record is 0-2 with 17 hits and 18 runs allowed in 9 2/3 innings.
He just wants to readjust that line. The myth of the billionaire has shifted to the reality of the jackhammer, Goshen stone and pulling the tarp in the Can-Am League.
"I'm doing fine," White says. "But the dream is still alive. If everything works right, some big company will come buy the hill and the company to mine it, I can take care of my parents and make it back to the big leagues for one more try."
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.