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The Billionaire in Triple A

He's sitting on a rock pile that's valued at $2.4 billion. That's an estimated $100 million more than Mark Cuban's net worth and almost 10 times more than A-Rod's record contract

Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:31AM; Updated: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:31AM
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Dodgers' pitcher Matt White.
Dodgers' pitcher Matt White.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
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By Michael Farber

Matt White is a Triple A pitcher bidding to become the Los Angeles Dodgers' left-on-left specialist, the guy who strides out of the bullpen to face Mr. Barry Bonds or Mr. Carlos Delgado. In the sixth inning of a somnolent spring training game, however, White encounters Detroit Tigers utility infielder Mark Haske, who hit .239 with one home run in A ball last year and is no bigger than Ryan Howard's thigh. Still, a lefty hitter is a lefty hitter. White, who has been lowering his arm angle to broaden the bend on his curveball, gets ahead 0 and 2 with Frisbee curves, misses with two overhand fastballs, induces a weak foul ball with a sidearm hook and finally strikes out Haske with over-the-top, 92-mph heat. "He could have been Bonds and the pitches wouldn't change," White says later. "It's a 3-3 game. I'm not worried about velocity. I'm looking for location and execution of pitches." He throws two hitless innings, striking out three, the type of airtight outing that, if it came in the chill of October, might get White on the cover of a magazine other than Geology Today.

Yes, he's that Matt White, the lucky dude who bought 50 acres from his great aunt in 2003 to help cover her nursing-home care, hoping one day to build a house there. He later found some rock -- well, not just some rock, 24 million tons of highly prized rock -- that sells for around $100 a ton. On paper, and in the papers, he became the "baseball billionaire."

Certainly the estimated value of the quarry in Cummington, Mass., has a line of zeroes any pitcher would envy. Forget for a moment the huge cost of excavating the stuff and stick to the fantasy math. White's $2.4 billion windfall would place him 131st on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans in 2006, $100 million ahead of Mark Cuban. He could buy the A's, Angels, Mariners and Rangers and turn the AL West into the AL White. Or he could purchase the Dodgers, as teammates suggested this spring, and pay himself to be the closer. The rock is worth almost 10 times more than Alex Rodriguez's record 10-year, $252 million contract. "White," Los Angeles pitcher Randy Wolf says, "should be A-Rock."

The mica schist rock that formed some 400 million years ago during the Devonian Period -- predating the Mesozoic and Julio Franco Eras -- belongs to a square-jawed, 29-year-old bachelor from Windsor, Mass., who thought he was getting a $50,000 plot of land and wound up with the Lord's lottery ticket. Still, $2.4 billion and middling stuff won't buy you a big league roster spot. After allowing just two hits in 9 1/3 innings during the spring, the Dodgers assigned him to the Triple A Las Vegas 51s. "We like his makeup and his arm, but something has to make him stand out," L.A. pitching coach Rick Honeycutt says. "If we have issues with our pen, he's a guy we'd consider. But to get here and stay, he has to dominate lefthanders."

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