Six years ago, Matt White was the story of the Dodgers' spring training camp. But no one was talking about his pitching. They wanted to know how he won the geological lottery.
You might remember it. White bought 45 acres in his home state of Massachusetts from an aunt for $50,000. When the land proved to be too hard to build on, a surveyor told White that he had approximately 24 million tons of mica schist rock on the property. After learning this stone was worth about $100 per ton, an MLB.com reporter did the math: Matt White's new nickname became "The Billionaire."
National newspapers and TV programs ran with the hard-to-believe story. Dodgers manager Grady Little joked that White could buy his spot on the rotation.
"It sounds bogus even saying those numbers," White said at the time. "I'm just a small-town guy trying to get to the big leagues."
White cautioned that the rock wasn't free money because it had to be excavated and processed. Not many listened. It was less sexy with that information.
But today you can find Matt White on his land doing the hard labor. After giving up his baseball career two years ago, White is working hard to pull the stone that was formed some 400 million years ago from the earth.
The business is really just getting started. Although Swift River Stone was founded in 2004 by White and his father, Jim, they didn't begin serious work on the land until last year. The economic fallout and the lack of home building, combined with two health setbacks for his father, meant that 2012 was the first year things got busy on the plot in Cummington, Mass.
With two machines the Whites own outright and a couple others they’re still paying off, Swift River Stone did $125,000 in sales last year, 70 percent of which the company kept after costs, White said.
Now blessed with bigger clients, White says he's on pace to triple his business this year.
"Our stone is definitely highly sought after," White said.
In fact, White says it's busy enough that for the first time he's thinking about hiring help.
At the same time, he's also considering giving up the business by just selling the land. The hard work has taken a toll on his 35-year-old body.
He’s had the land for sale, on and off, since 2009. But he recently got more serious by listing the property through a real estate company that specializes in selling quarries.
"If I got $3 million for the land, it wouldn't be a whole heck of a lot of money, but it would justify selling it," White said.
That would give White a 5,900 percent return on his initial investment. Not bad considering the billion-dollar estimates by journalists were never real.