Well, land o' goshen, what with the Dice-K URLs and the $2.3 million Honus Wagner card, this has been quite the baseball week here at Pink Slip. Not that this is surprising, of course, since Pink Slip is (at least tangentially) about business and baseball is (at least, ahem, tangentially) about business....well, you can see where this one is going.
Still, however money-ballish baseball has become, I was still a bit startled to hear the words "baseball" and "billionaire" uttered in the same sentence. Just who is this phe-nom, I wondered, who is worth even more than the Yankees and Red Sox payrolls combined. Talk about going over the salary cap.
As it turns out, there's no phe-nom at all. Just a major league hopeful from Western Massachusetts trying to make it to the bigs. One who happens to own a piece of property in Western Massachusetts that is sitting on $2 billion worth of goshen. (If you're not familiar with goshen, it is "a metamorphic rock derived from sandy mud sediments deposited on an ancient sea bottom. [This] landscaping stone is a micaschist flatstone formed in the lower Devonian Period (400 million years ago)." Definition courtesy of the eponymous Goshen Stone, of Goshen, Massachusetts.)
As the Goshen Stone t-shirt has it, "Schist Happens", and plenty of schist has happened to Matt White.
According to an AP article by John Nadel that got some pretty wide pick-up, White - who's had a couple of major league starts, but who's been rattling around the minor leagues for a couple of years and is now getting a long-shot look-see from the LA Dodgers - helped his aged aunt out a few years back by taking some property off her hands for $50K. (She needed the money so she could move into a nursing home.) When White went to build on his new property, his reaction was, "Schist, this is solid rock." He decided to figure out what to do with it, and in the course of his investigation:
A geologist estimated there were 24 million tons of the stone on his land. The stone is being sold for upward of $100 per ton, meaning there's well over $2 billion worth of material used for sidewalks, patios and the like.
What a heartfelt story - helping out the ancient aunt. What a made for TV movie - especially if he ends up making it to The Show this season. What a Western Massachusetts version of the Beverly Hillbillies - just swap out bubblin' crude for goshen stone.
Could it possibly be TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
Of course it could.
The story, once it gets ripped from its provocative headline, is that, when it comes to actually capitalizing on the $2B worth of rock, there's a little problem: getting it out. Apparently, when the costs involved in extracting and shipping the stone are factored in, the fortune takes a big swing and a miss.
Dr. Peter Pannish, an adjunct professor in the department of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, surveyed the property several months ago...
"As far as hundreds of millions, I doubt if that's possible because of all the expenses that would have to be considered," Pannish said.
Before we start feeling too badly for White, Pannish does say that he thinks that White could make some money - maybe "several million dollars or more."
Meanwhile, Matt White has his father breaking rock while he tries to break into the bigs.
"I plan to play baseball until I can't play anymore. My goal is to play in the big leagues, regardless of what happens with the rock quarry."
Matt White is a stone's throw from realizing his dream. Is there anyone so rock-hearted, so heart of goshen stone, that they're not rooting big time for Matt White to make it to the big leagues?
Credit for the quotes used above goes to the Nadel article.