Bankruptcy forces ex-Major League Baseball pitcher Matt White to sell Swift River Stone quarry in Cummington



Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CUMMINGTON — Matt White once was known as “The Billionaire” when he was a Major League Baseball player — not a result of his pitching skills, but rather because the 50 acres he bought in Cummington contained tons of valuable mica schist rock known as Goshen stone.

Today, however, White is faced with having to sell his Swift River Stone quarry which is in bankruptcy.

“It’s heartbreaking. Sure, I will walk away with a little money, but it is still sad because this was my life, my future,” White said Tuesday.

His attorney, Steven Weiss, of the Springfield-based law firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, said the quarry filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 last fall to stop a foreclosure on the property. Skelly and Loy Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting firm based in Harrisburg, Pa., has appraised its value at between $2 million and $4 million, according to White.

He said his financial problems began when he could no longer afford to make the payments on a business loan obtained from Scudder Bay Capital LLC in Wakefield. The rate on the loan had increased to 21 percent and White said he was “just not in a position to pay it off in time.” He declined to discuss any further specifics about the loan.

“I was forced to do this, otherwise I would have completely lost my quarry,” he said. “I will certainly make myself available to whoever comes in and buys the quarry to help them with anything that I can.”

White, 37, who grew up in Pittsfield where he now lives, has owned the property since 2003 when he purchased it for $50,000 to help his aunt who needed the money.

At the time, White was playing professional baseball during a career in which he was a left-handed pitcher for seven organizations in the U.S. as well as a Japanese team. White pitched in seven major league games, including three for the Boston Red Sox in 2003, and compiled an 0-2 record.

‘Raw land’

“When I bought it, it was just raw land and I was fully intending to build a house on the property,” White said of the quarry. “For years we were just clearing the land and opening it up a bit.”

After the property was surveyed, however, White’s plans shifted.

“We talked with a geologist and discovered that we actually had 24 million tons of Goshen stone,” he said. “There is enough stone here to harvest for generations and generations to come.”

The quarry is owned and operated by Matt and his father Jim White, who never hired any other employees.

While Jim White had a background in construction and logging, neither father nor son had any experience in business, sales or working a stone quarry.

“I was a baseball player my whole life, then suddenly I am the owner of a stone quarry,” Matt White said.

“I have had to wear a lot of hats here, so I learned a lot about all aspects of the business,” he added. “I have also had some offers to go into partnership with people, but I have heard too many horror stories about that.”

With Matt unable to work at the quarry during baseball seasons, his father did a lot of the clearing and excavating on his own. The Swift River Stone Quarry officially was up and running in 2005.

White said that business was OK until his father experienced serious health problems in 2008, resulting in a quadruple bypass heart surgery. “It took him a while to recover,” White said.

After he retired from baseball in 2010, White said, “That is when business began to pick up.”

It was good over the next three years, White said, and he began looking into selling the stone wholesale.

“Selling to homeowners is great, but they only buy from you once and that’s it,” White said, adding that he now has wholesale customers from across the country and in Canada.

But as the business grew, it began to overwhelm the two-man operation, White said. A shoulder injury suffered during his baseball career, coupled with the hard manual labor required to run the quarry, was taking a toll on his body and White said he was concerned about his father’s health as well.

“I also didn’t have the capital to invest back into the business to be able to buy the machinery that I needed,” he said, adding that a good stone-cutting guillotine can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000.

Potential buyer

Weiss said that there is currently a buyer willing to purchase the quarry for $700,000, who he identified as Jill Hazen from Berkshire County. However, because the property is in bankruptcy, the court requires that efforts be made to sell it for the highest amount possible.

“The auction gives people another opportunity to make higher and better offers,” Weiss said.

Bid forms are available by contacting Weiss at 737-1131, ext. 128, sweiss@ssfpc.com, or Lisa Darragh at Maple and Main Realty, 455-4788, ladarragh@gmail.com. White hired Maple and Main Realty of Florence to help him sell then property.

Sealed bids for the property will start at $725,000 and are due by Oct. 14. If the auction does not produce a higher bidder, there will be a hearing Oct. 15 about selling the property for $700,000.

“I think the auction will bring out serious buyers,” White said. “The stone is beautiful and it is a great opportunity for someone — just not me.”

White, who is single and has no children, said he has thought about opening a baseball academy, but wants to take some time to consider his options once the quarry is sold. “Moving forward with my life, I would like to do something meaningful, something that provides a service or helps people,” he said.


 


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