Baseball Pro Matt Morizio: 5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes

Personally, I feel called to help husbands and fathers. Having five kids of my own, I know first hand that there is so much that a healthy relationship can do for children, and those children grow up to be tomorrow’s leaders. More is caught than taught with kids. They don’t miss a thing.

As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Morizio.

Matt spent five years in the minor leagues with the Kansas City Royals, four as a catcher, one as a pitcher. He turned his five year career into a lifelong journey of helping athletes with their money, and nearly a decade after playing he serves as a mentor for the Royals’ minor leaguers. Baseball changed his life. It brought him places he never could have imagined, quite literally — living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was not a bucket list item for him. And it made him into the man he is today: a man of faith, a husband, a dad of five kids, a leader in business and the community, and a financial advisor for high performing individuals, many of whom are current and former athletes. Today he runs an athlete-focused financial advisory practice at Beck Bode, a registered investment advisor in the Greater Boston Area, where every day he coaches his clients on putting their hard earned dollars to work for them.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Absolutely, it’s an honor to be part of it. Sure, I grew up in Waltham, MA, in a middle class home. My parents divorced when I was young, so I spent my childhood back and forth between parents. Amidst that back and forth, baseball was always a constant for me, and at a young age I learned I was pretty good.

In my preschool yearbook, under the “What do you want to be when you grow up section,” I wrote “professional baseball player.”

And I chased that dream, despite the naysayers and odds stacked against me, until it became a reality.

In high school I was drafted as a pitcher/shortstop in the 48th round by the San Diego Padres. Four years later, I was drafted out of Northeastern by the Kansas City Royals in the 17th round as a catcher.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete?

I always had a gut feeling that I was made for a purpose, and at a young age I learned that I loved a challenge, loved hard work, and was wired to dream big. I had visions of doing big things in my life.

When I was around 10 or 11 years old the Chicago Bulls were in the middle of their dominant NBA run, and I distinctly remember Michael Jordan’s jumping fist pump after “The Shot” he took against the Cavs. I thought to myself, “I’m going to do that same jumping fist pump when we win the world series.”

And I did.

That vision of my future never left. So, seeing Michael Jordan succeed inspired my career.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

The easy answer is my parents. They were supportive of me, and my mother made sure I got to every game and practice.

But there was one mentor, Rick, that believed in me and encouraged me to chase my dreams from the day he met me. He was the one guy I remember that didn’t laugh at me when I told him I wanted to play pro baseball. Everyone else thought it was a “cute” goal but I should be more realistic…that I should have a backup plan.

But Rick believed in me and told me that I could absolutely do it, but it would take more work than anyone else was willing to put in.

And to take that one step further, he helped me put in the work, meeting me at the gym at 4:45am during the summer so we could train together before I worked my summer job in high school.

People underestimate what support and encouragement can do for a person, but I’m living proof it can change the trajectory of your life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

It isn’t a mistake, necessarily, but it sure is a funny lesson that shows the power of committing 100%.

During a baseball season, you have some downtime in the mornings…ok a lot of downtime. So my buddy and I decided to make a music video. There was some locker room banter that season about making music and what quality music actually was, so we took full advantage and made an SNL-esque music video in complete secrecy.

We debuted it to our team, of all nights, when a big leaguer was our starting pitcher on a rehab assignment.

He was confused. Everyone was confused. My roommate and I were nervous we messed up our careers.

But then everyone died laughing.

And it didn’t end there. Here I am, almost a decade removed from playing in the Royals’ system, and it is STILL a topic of conversation.

I was in Kansas City earlier this year as part of a mentorship orientation to their newest draft class, and the front office staff joked about “Posterized” as if it was yesterday.

Moral of the story, don’t go into anything halfway. If you’re going to commit, go all in. We committed to making the best video we could, and here we are a decade later still part of the Royal family, still put on a pedestal to some degree because of a dumb music video.

Side note, it’s still out there on YouTube somewhere, so you can fact check this one.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?

My transition was a tough one because I had no clue what direction to take my career after playing. High level athletes are successful because they have an uncanny ability to stay singularly focused on a goal. At some point, however, that dream dies.

And when that ride was over, I learned how much I didn’t know about anything outside of baseball.

On top of that, I had my first child shortly after being released in 2011.

I started my career in finance and accounting staffing quite accidentally. I went to a staffing firm, Kforce, looking to be placed with one of their clients because I was the sole provider for my family with no job and a bad resume.

It wasn’t my plan, but they ended up asking me to work for them instead of placing me with one of their clients, and I’ll be forever grateful to Nick Brown for giving me a shot.

I learned sales, relationship building, prospecting, cold calling, negotiating, and on and on…it was a great first step for me.

But I knew I wanted to be more impactful in people’s lives, and I wanted to do it with my kind of people, athletes and high performers, not accountants.

Wealth management has served as a tremendous platform for me to play that role in people’s lives. There isn’t much that’s more personal than your wallet. And when you’re in that circle of trust in people’s livese, you’re privy to a lot of sensitive information. And that’s the level where real change and impact can happen.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects new you are working on now?

I’m excited about growing the mentor program for the Royals. Two players and I are the serving as the pilot mentors to get this program off the ground, so it’s a huge honor and huge responsibility, because I know how powerful it could have been for me as a player to have a mentor to lean on.

I’m also fired up about the growth and direction of my advisory practice. The more people I speak with who are achieving crazy levels of success, the more commonalities I find about the mind behind that success. It’s been really exciting to play a role in the lives of these people.

And I couldn’t let an interview go without highlighting my lifelong mission of raising children and growing my relationship with my wife and soulmate, Addie. Without them, none of the other projects are worth spending any time on.

Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?

Without question. I can attribute my entire approach to business and life to my time as an athlete.

Here’s one of many lessons: You are always replaceable. That mindset has been the fuel for my work ethic for the past decade.

We were just getting home after a long road trip. It was four in the morning when we pulled into our home stadium parking lot.

After road trips, the bus always dropped us off at the stadium so we could unload our equipment, get in our cars, and drive home to get a few hours of sleep before we had to be back later that day.

This time, before we got into our cars, one of my teammates was called off the bus into the manager’s office. He was given a plane ticket home and was released, just like that, at 4am.

Later that day, a new name was in the starting lineup playing at his position, and a new player’s nameplate was hanging over his locker. Think about that — less than 12 hours later my teammate was gone and I had a new one…and the train kept chugging, never missing a beat.

He wasn’t the first guy I saw released, but for whatever reason, this one got me. It made me realize,

You are always replaceable.

What an incredibly humbling lesson. In that 4am-moment, I learned that I couldn’t afford to give anything but 100%, all the time. The game didn’t owe me anything. Life didn’t owe me anything. Nothing was guaranteed to me.

I am now keenly aware that someone out there is smarter than me, more talented than me, better connected than me, has better genetics than me, etc, but nobody can outwork me, and my work ethic is completely within my control.

I know I am always replaceable, but I will make it tough to find the replacement!

Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Lesson 1: Life doesn’t go as planned. Be grateful for that.

In high school, if you told me that I’d be drafted as a catcher, play minor league baseball for five seasons, mostly as a catcher, and never make it out of High A, I’d tell you, “Get in line behind all the other naysayers and watch…and a catcher? You’re crazy.” I was a pitcher.

After my senior year of high school, I was drafted in the 48th round out of 50 as a pitcher/shortstop by the San Diego Padres…life was going as planned.

Fast forward four years — after playing college baseball at Northeastern (Go Huskies!), I was drafted in the 17th round as a CATCHER by the Kansas City Royals.

Fast forward five seasons with them, and I was released as a PITCHER, wrapping up my minor league career, never making it above High A, spending the first four years as a catcher and the last as a pitcher.

Fast forward six years, and I’m married with five kids, have farm animals in my back yard (after growing up in a city), and am working in an industry investing) I was always skeptical of but am now in love with…not what I planned, but I couldn’t be happier.

I can name about 1,000 more instances throughout those years where things didn’t go as planned. You can, too, I’m sure.

But you know what? My life today is exponentially more fulfilling than it was as a minor leaguer chasing the dream.

Life will never go as you plan, no matter how hard you try. Despite the pain often associated with change, be grateful. You never know how that change will become a tool in your life-toolbox down the road.

Lesson 2: Worry about the things that are in your control.

Through my failures as a minor leaguer, I am SO much better at letting go of things I have no control over. Traffic, weather, stock market declines, sick kids, chickens aren’t laying enough eggs, whatever it is — I save the mental stress of worrying and instead focus my efforts where it matters — things within my control, and I am so thankful for learning this lesson in the minor leagues.

In the minors, everyone plays the role of GM at one point or another. On long bus rides, we would move guys up, down, and out as if they were chess pieces. When the “brass (front office staff)” was in town, everyone speculated who was moving up or shipping out. The draft would happen in June, and everyone questioned whether that recently drafted high school or college player was his replacement.

Personally, I played GM every night when I got home from the game. Every night I lay in bed and wondered, “is tomorrow my last day?” Then I carried that weight with me to the ballpark the next day.

When I got to the field, the first thing I did was check the lineup card. “Phew, not starting again tonight. They can’t release me if I’m not given a chance in games…or can they?” Side note — yes they can.

Without a doubt, worrying about what was out of my control took up valuable mental space and negatively affected me over time. I could have been reading, watching a movie, learning something new — almost anything could have been more productive than worrying about things that were out of my control.

Today, this lesson holds true in all parts of my life. When the stock market drops and I lose money, I don’t sweat it. I know we at Beck Bode have a disciplined investment process that has withstood the test of time. A decline in the market is completely out of my control.

When my kids get sick, are up all night, and all I can do is give them medicine and hold them, I try not to stress out. I’m doing everything I can in that moment for them…and I have plenty of coffee to get me through the next day, or two, or five. I can’t control how quickly they get better.

Letting go of things that are out of my control continues to free up my mental energy to focus on the things that really matter in my life, and I owe it all to my failures as a minor league.

Lesson 3: No matter what your job is, there will be parts you don’t like.

Don’t be mislead by cliches like “Love what you do and never work a day in your life,” or “It’ll never feel like work if it’s something you love.”

I was playing baseball for a living. The Kansas City Royals were giving me a paycheck twice per month to play a game I loved since I was five. It doesn’t get much better than that for a job.

But guess what? There were days I didn’t feel like going to the ballpark. And there were parts of my day I didn’t enjoy all the time.

The baseball season gets insanely repetitive. Every day is Groundhog Day. The routine never changes: Wake up around 10 am, eat breakfast, kill an hour or two, go to the ballpark, spend 8–10 hours there, go to bed around 2 am. Repeat x 162 (140 in the minors), not including spring training and fall/winter league.

Most of the time it was a blast, but there were days I wanted a break from the monotony, and there were parts of the job that I didn’t always enjoy: batting practice, running poles, team lifts, arm care work, infield/outfield, cuts and relays, bunt defense, PB&J for the 100th time before a game, the same music in the clubhouse — you name it, some parts of the job felt like work at times…even though I loved what I was doing.

That was an important lesson for me to learn, especially when my playing career ended. Instead of searching for a career where I would love 100% of my days, I looked inward to understand what made me tick and then searched for a career that could fulfill my needs.

Lesson 4: Chemistry is greater than talent.

Chemistry trumps talent almost without exception.

Ask any former pro athlete what they miss most about their time in the minors, and they will tell you they miss their teammates, the clubhouse shenanigans, and the off-the-field bonding. You develop some incredible relationships with your teammates in the minor leagues.

Think about it, you are in a small town in the middle of America, you know nobody, there’s nothing to do, and you’re all chasing the same dream every night. Your job requires you to be together from 2–11 every day, but you end up hanging out all the time.

In my experience, the teams with the best chemistry, not the most talent, were the premier teams I’ve played on. And the stronger the relationships, the better the teams played together.

If you combine top talent and a tight-knit chemistry, you have a championship caliber team.

Take, for example, when I played for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2009. That was an incredibly talented team (13 guys from that team made it to the big leagues). At the start of the season, we didn’t know each other very well, but as the season progressed, we became like family, and it’s evident in our record.

We finished the year 84–55, but check out the first and second half splits, 38–31 and 46–24 respectively…same team, same players (for the most part), but we finished +16 games in the second half.

The 2004 Red Sox were the first team in MLB history to come back from an 0–3 deficit in a seven game series, despite having a payroll almost $60 million less than their rival Yankees (aka less talent on paper). That same ’04 team was nicknamed affectionately a “Band of Idiots.” “Cowboy up” was coined that season. Long hair and beards became cool in baseball because of that team.

Everyone praised that team for its chemistry — go ahead and Google “2004 Red Sox chemistry” and see how many articles come up. Now Google “2004 Red Sox talent.” You won’t find one article exclusively highlighting the talent on the team that year.

Chemistry trumps talent in the business world, too. CEO’s or business owners often say their number one priority is hiring and keeping the right people. Venture capitalists are far more likely to invest in an amazing team with a good idea over an average team with an incredible idea.

Apple and Harley Davidson have done such a good job creating chemistry that it spills over to their customer base, and because of it they’ve created raving fans. Some even get tattoos of the Harley or Apple logos.

Grateful for learning the importance of chemistry in the minors, I now prioritize it at the top of my list when making both professional and personal decisions.

Lesson 5: The greatest in the world do the routine things consistently well.

When people find out I bounced around the minors for five seasons I’m often asked something like, “What were the guys like who made it to the big leagues? Was it obvious they were better than everyone else on the field?”

My anti-climactic answer is always, “No, not at all.”

Of all the future big-leaguers I played with, there was one player…ONE…who was head and shoulders better than everyone else on the diamond, Tim Lincecum. And what did Tim’s early professional career look like? First round draft pick in ’06, major league debut in ’07, Cy Young Winner ’08 and ’09, MLB Starter of the Year in ’08, NL All Star from ’08–11, NL Strikeouts per 9 leader from ’08–10, Post Season MVP (Babe Ruth Award) in ’10, World Series champion ’10, ’12, and ’14, and the list goes on.

And as for the countless rest?

They were insanely consistent with the routine things. Don’t get me wrong, they were talented. You can’t get to that level without talent, but their consistency is what set them apart.

Hitters could take the same swing on the ball in games as they could in batting practice, and they could do that 99 out of 100 times. Pitchers could hit their spot, whether in or intentionally out of the zone, 99 out of 100 times with at least a couple pitches.

The greatest players on Earth are the most consistent players on Earth, not the most talented.

That lesson hasn’t stopped with baseball, either. Among the top performing colleagues I’ve worked with, nothing in particular has stood out among them. Instead, they too have taken care of business with alarming consistency.

Need something by a certain date or time? It’s there, on time, every time.

Need to hit certain metrics on a monthly basis? They hit their numbers every month, twelve months a year.

Pushing marketing content through social media channels? They show up every time I look at my feeds.

Expecting a certain level of quality or service? You get it from them every time, without exception.

So, today, instead of trying to be the best in my industry, I take a page out of the big-league playbook and try to be the most consistent with everything I do.

What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?

The biggest eye-opener since joining the business world is how MUCH relationships matter. I’ve been part of multi-million dollar deals, and I’ve read about billion dollar deals, and they’ve all started with a relationship.

So, my advice is to be very intentional with the relationships you create, not in an insincere way. But in a way that says, “I really admire this person. I like what they are all about. So I’m going to intentionally build a relationship with them because down the road, this person is going places.”

And on that note, these relationships take WORK. You don’t meet someone once and keep them in your life forever. You need to continuously strengthen that relationship over time, which comes in many forms, but I suggest the coach/player or mentor/mentee type relationship when starting out, where you consistently come to them with meaningful questions.

Over time, this will grow to a valuable friendship, and relationships will single handedly catapult your career.

You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I appreciate the kind words. For me, success is defined by the number of lives you can positively impact. That comes in different forms.

One example is a “Give Christmas” effort my family has done the last couple years, where we raise money for families in our community who otherwise couldn’t celebrate Christmas, and we literally show up to on their doorsteps Christmas Eve with food, stockings, and gifts in hand. It’s such a blessing to see my family, kids and all, enjoy giving without any expectations of something in return.

Another way is a weekly meeting I have with a group of men, where we grow in our faith and share openly and honestly about our lives. Pouring into small groups of men like that has had a major impact in all our lives.

And finally, through my advisory practice I’ve become the godfather to clients’ children and a mentor to younger clients. Like I said earlier, when you’re let into the inner circle of someone’s life, you can have the biggest impact on their future. It’s a tremendous honor to play these roles in their lives.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That’s a really fun question. Again, I really appreciate the encouragement. Personally, I feel called to help husbands and fathers. Having five kids of my own, I know first hand that there is so much that a healthy relationship can do for children, and those children grow up to be tomorrow’s leaders. More is caught than taught with kids. They don’t miss a thing.

One of my long term goals is to create an annual or maybe more frequently retreat for men, where they learn specific tactics and strategies to be better husbands, better fathers, and better leaders. I believe men need to be held to a higher standard than today’s society holds them to, and if I could up the bar through these experiential retreats, I know there would be a tremendous ripple effect.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I have a couple, but one that I lean on almost daily is a passage from Romans, chapter 8, verse 28:

“And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

As a man of faith, it helps me through both good and bad times, but especially the difficult times. It’s a total perspective shift to know that everything happening to me is for the good.

Another way to put it is, “Life is happening for you, not to you.”

When you believe that even the hard times are part of your story, you look for the lessons in the struggle and almost never have the “Why me” mindset.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

As a Boston fan, I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to sit down with A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). He had such a roller coaster career emotionally, where he was loved in Seattle, then loved and hated in NYC, suspended for doing steroids, recreated himself after his steroid suspension, and has somehow battled through all that to become a household name as a broadcaster, businessman, and social media influencer.

There is without a doubt some serious self-awareness and serious savvy to walk the path he is on, and he’s only exploding more! I’d love to get inside that mind.

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