White's newfound celebrity a land mine
'Billionaire' non-roster invitee flooded by interview requests
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt White's billionaire side gig is becoming a real hassle.In the two weeks since MLB.com first reported that the Dodgers' non-roster pitcher lucked into a fortune when the land he purchased from a sick aunt was found loaded with valuable rock, White has shot from a clubhouse novelty to a worldwide celebrity. "The interviews have become a distraction and I want to get back to baseball," said White. "I'm here to pitch and make the team and everybody needs to know that." But everybody in the media wants to know about his instant wealth. Local reporters who follow the Dodgers picked up the story, then CNN and CNBC. An Associated Press report this week triggered a new wave of two dozen interview requests from outlets such as "ABC World News Tonight," and the television tabloids piled on with a call from "Access Hollywood." White is scheduled to pitch in Friday's home exhibition opener and he said he considers it serious business. He's been running the conditioning drills, throwing his bullpen sessions and working on his command, just like any pitcher. But unlike any other pitcher, he's getting calls from his agent about movie offers. On the mound, he's gaining confidence in a sidearm delivery that could make him even tougher against left-handed hitters. He's been a professional since 1998, has appeared in the Major Leagues with three other organizations and is looking to make it four, even if it's a long-shot bid. "That's a part of the story -- I can pitch a little bit too," White said. "Since word of the rock quarry got out, it's gotten out of proportion and become a distraction. The baseball people need to understand that I'm here to make the team. Nothing overshadows that. I didn't go play in Venezuela and work as hard as I have if it wasn't my dream. The other stuff I don't want to talk about anymore. I want to be evaluated for pitching, not for off-the-field stuff." Yet, 24 hours after saying he would cut off non-baseball interviews, he granted a request from ABC News. He's not a guy who likes to say no, and he's clearly conflicted -- if not overwhelmed -- between the unexpected attention and its potential to derail his dream career. Club officials have suggested he hold a press conference, then really cut off all non-baseball inquiries.
His teammates have been calling White "The Billionaire" since he told MLB.com that his 50 acres in Massachusetts came with 24 million tons of decorative construction rock on it that sells for $100 a ton.White, who is considering selling the property, became an instant camp focal point and was called on by manager Grady Little to address the team and explain how it happened. White played for Little with Boston in 2003. But pitching is his career, and nothing else -- even wealth beyond anyone's wildest dreams -- is more important to him right now than that. "My arm feels great and I'm excited about the opportunity," White said. "I can't wait for Friday."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.