The Time When World Series MVP Ben Zobrist Was Almost My Tenant

World Series Champ and MVP Ben Zobrist

Do you remember the article in 2015 called, “What Type Of People Spend Over $100,000 A Year On Rent?” I decided to document all of the open house prospects this time around to see who would be crazy enough to spend that much on rent instead of buy. It turns out plenty of people! One of those prospects was professional baseball player Ben Zobrist, who was just named the World Series MVP after winning the title with the Chicago Cubs!

It's kind of nuts because in January 2015, Ben was traded to the Oakland Athletics from Tampa Bay. He was not a household name like Lebron James or Buster Posey. Then midway through the 2015 season, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals, a team that ended up winning the World Series! To then win another World Series with a different team and be named the MVP the following year is unheard of.

I thought I'd share with you some lessons from this curious open house.

Lessons Learned From Almost Renting To Ben Zobrist

1) Life can change quickly. You may feel like your life isn't going anywhere. You may feel like there's an insurmountable mountain to climb. You may feel like giving up. Just know that anything can happen if you put yourself in the right position. Do not give up! When we chatted, Ben said he was surprised by the trade as he loved Tampa Bay and he felt the people loved him too. But he just chalked the trade up to business instead of anything personal. I'm sure he can't thank his lucky stars enough that he was traded.

2) Parlay your winnings. After winning the World Series with the Kansas City Royals, Ben went from earning $7.5 million to signing a 4-year, $56 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Kansas City got the most out of him, so now it was time for Ben to get the most out of another organization. Being a loyal soldier like me for 11 years at one firm is no longer optimal for your finances. Seize your fortune when you're at the peak of your game.

Related: Make Millions With Arbitrage Opportunities

3) Practice stealth wealth. Ben mentioned he and his family live in Franklin, Tennessee during the off-season. The family loves Franklin because it's away from the spotlight. They like small town living, despite being able to live anywhere. Although I was asking $8,800 a month to rent my house at the time, $105,600 a year in rent is nothing to a family that was earning $625,000 a month gross. I could tell he was just a nice, humble, down to Earth guy. I don't think his ego will grow any larger now that he's the most famous baseball player in the world.

Related: The Rise Of Stealth Wealth

4) Stay in shape. Because most of us are not professional athletes, our perception of what is fit and healthy has warped for the worse because most of us are out of shape! It's understandably hard to stay fit working as a desk jockey. I was shocked that my Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor told me at the beginning of the year I should consider losing 17 lbs to ~150 lbs to help treat my sleep apnea. All this time I thought I was in relatively OK shape for a 5'10” male who plays tennis 3X a week. But my doctor was basically telling me I was overweight in a nice way because she then told me to not worry too much about my weight. The people you see on TV really are much leaner in person. Ben, at 6'3″, looked pretty thin in real life for a guy who looks jacked on TV.

Related: Track Everything! We Are Eating And Spending Way Too Much

5) Don't host an open house when there are tenants. One of the things that prevented me from locking in Ben and his family was that the house still had four tenants. I asked them to clean up after themselves, but not matter how much they cleaned, the house would never look as good as if it were staged or empty. Ben's wife asked me if she could use one of the bathrooms upstairs and then made a “yick” remark afterward. The higher your rental asking price, the more you're going to have to make your house look amazing because people are naturally pickier.

Related: Example Of A Good Rental Lease Agreement

6) Owning property is powerful. Property really is the main asset class that allowed me to be financially independent with over $200,000 a year in gross rent. I'm talking good financial independence living where you can rent to Ben Zobrist and not “ramen noodle” financial independence living where you've got to live in a shack or a lower cost area out of necessity. The combination of inflation, leverage, and time creates a tremendous amount of wealth. Every dollar you are wastefully spending today could go to building a future fortune. Don't be at inflation's mercy.

Related: The Inflation Interest Rate Paradox: Why You Must Continuously Invest

7) The world is small, be nice. What are the chances a personal finance blogger in San Francisco would host an open house to a baseball player who just won back-to-back World Series championships? Maybe 1 in a billion? Yet it happened, which means the odds probably aren't that low. Given the world is small, it's important for everybody to be respectful of others because you never know when you'll need some help or meet someone who could make or break you. The last thing you want to do is insult a relatively large blogger who doesn't rely on anybody to live.

Related: The Key To An Easier Life Is To Have High Emotional Intelligence

Your Life Can Change For The Better

It's crazy to hear stories about regular people who start companies and sell them for a billion dollars in several years e.g. Instagram and Cruise Automation. Thanks to technology, you don't have to spend decades to accumulate a fortune anymore. You can instantly compete with Facebook or some well-funded startup in under an hour!

Everything has accelerated in life, which is why you are seeing a growing movement towards early retirement. It is absolutely amazing to be able to do whatever you want while you can still bend your knees with relative ease.

The key is to just STICK WITH THINGS long enough to give yourself a chance at good fortune. The Cubs waited for over 100 years, and now are World Series Champs for 2016. I know the longer I keep Financial Samurai up and running, the higher the chance a reader will treat me to an amazing steak dinner without asking for anything in return.

Once you get your process down, creating enough wealth for financial independence is an inevitability. Just don't forget to always enjoy the moments along the way!


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Shop around for a mortgage: Check the latest mortgage rates online through Credible. They’ve got one of the largest networks of lenders that compete for your business. Your goal should be to get as many written offers as possible and then use the offers as leverage to get the lowest interest rate possible. Interest rates have finally started to tick higher post election.

Congrats to Ben for winning a World Series again!

About The Author

27 thoughts on “The Time When World Series MVP Ben Zobrist Was Almost My Tenant”

  1. Being kind because the world is small is really important. I’m having lunch tomorrow with someone I used to temp with. We’ve both since started our own businesses in the same industry. We will gladly direct clients to one another as appropriate.

  2. As a Kansas City Royals fan, I can say that I would buy Ben Zobrist any drink at any place if I saw him out. He’s the definition of a class act and is revered for the few months he spent in Kansas City. Not only did he deliver our long-suffering franchise our first title in 30 years, he and his family took the time to engage with the community and even named their daughter (born just days after the Royals beat the Mets in game 5 of the 2015 World Series) Blaise Royal Zobrist. Before a single pitch in 2016 was thrown, KC fans were so sad to not have retained him. The results since then just make the sting that much worse and the memories that much more irreverent.

    Glad he didn’t rent from you, FS. That would mean he would’ve become a Giant (boo!) and maybe the Cubs don’t win without him. Neat article.

    1. That’s right! If Ben was my tenant, NO two World Series rings in 2 years! That’s crazy how his life could have just stayed the same, like most of us who don’t ever take any extra risks.

      I think his wife was pregnant when they visited. They brought at least their son to the house. Nice folks.

  3. Great point about life changing so quickly. My wife and I have always made sure to do the best job at our current job, but to also keep an open mind to any new opportunities that might come our way. It’s a good thing we are both open to moving around the country (world too?) so when something comes up we’re both on the same page. How cool that you got to meet Zobrist!

  4. Your First Million

    Could not agree with you more, especially on:

    6) Owning property is powerful

    There are too many advantages to owning real estate to pass up. It is a common saying that 90% of millionaires made it through real estate, or at least hold their wealth in real estate. Maybe that is a sign that the middle class should start considering owning some real estate :)

  5. “I’m talking good financial independence living where you can rent to Ben Zobrist and not “ramen noodle” financial independence living where you’ve got to live in a shack or a lower cost area out of necessity.”

    This may be my favorite sentence on your blog. Would love to sticky it in the FIRE subreddit…

  6. Very cool story! To think that Ben Zobrist had a brush with personal finance greatness! lol. It is a small world, and interesting to see the ways that people connect. You pulled some great insights out of this chance encounter. Besides, anytime baseball can make it’s way into a pf post, it’s a good thing!

  7. Go Finance Yourself!

    Cool story Sam. What an incredible World Series! I didn’t have a dog in the fight but this was one of the more enjoyable series I can remember watching in a while. Always liked Ben Zobrist and was happy for him getting the MVP. I really respect people like him who have been so successful yet remain so humble.

  8. It truly is a small world. I grew up playing football against guys like Patrick DiMarco (Altanta Falcons) and Ian Williams (just released by the 49ers). We played together from Pop Warner all the way through high school. Ian and I actually were fairly close until I got injured and had to give up my career.

    Your point still stands though — just be nice. I tell that to people all the time. Just be nice. You never know who anybody knows or where anybody comes from. Plus it just makes being a human so much better.

  9. PatientWealthBuilder

    Cool story. On the opposite end of the spectrum I showed my condo to a convicted arsonist and a person convicted of prostitution. Such is the life of a landlord of a property renting for less than $1,000 per month.

    But one of your points really resounded with me. It truly is a “small world” in the sense that you will often operate in a smaller sphere of contacts than you may think. Because your professional and personal spheres of influence are much much smaller than the population of your city or region, you are MUCH more likely to run into people again and again. I run into people constantly because the group of people that overlap on the various interests that I have, both professional and personal, is fairly small. Aside from it being the right thing to do, treating everyone with respect, honor, and dignity is key because you will often run into them later in a different context!

    1. Hey careful there PatientWealthBuilder,
      ALL of our apartments rent for under $1000 (actually we have 9 units that rent for $625 or less and one for $900.) It all depends on where you are in the country. We have IT folks, teachers, retired engineers, nurses, etc. We also have a property in Florida – walking distance to one of the finest beaches in the country that would rent for under $1000 too – 2 bed/2 bath and that complex is full of high earning retired folks.

      1. PatientWealthBuilder

        We have had great tenants at that price point. For instance one of my first ones was a Phd working in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence who always paid early.

        The point is that at the $1,000 price point in that neighborhood you will end up dealing with felons. The convicted arsonist was trying to turn his life around but unfortunately he did lie to me on the application so I wasn’t comfortable renting to him. We ended up hiring a property manager who get a very quiet tenant that didn’t say or do much. They paid rent on time though!

        I also separately let the property be used by an individual who had just exited the prison system because it was vacant anyway. Some volunteers were helping him and took care of the property and getting him in and out so that worked well to keep it occupied between tenants.

        Its always interesting working with various types of people looking for a place to live. I try to help people when I can but it is a business. This is why I decided to have a property manager handle all of tenant selection for me!

    2. Lol. The arsonist is a stretch, but the working girls do usually have decent income depending on wether they are independent contractors or repressed by their pimps. Everyone needs somewhere to get out of the rain. Decency is an excellent reaction to everything in my opinion!

  10. That’s great that this MVP, multi-millionaire appears to be a normal, humble guy. It’s hard for people who are really successful to keep themselves humble like that.

    Being able to stay grounded and avoiding the big head syndrome is so important to stealth wealth. I know tons of professionals who just act as if they’re better than others, just because they’re big shots. I think doing things like Uber, Postmates, etc is a great way to sort of stay humble. I feel like a man of the people when I’m doing those kind of things.

  11. Nice post Sam.

    Speaking of small worlds, I was surprised and happy to find and listen to my favorite financial blogger being interviewed on my 2nd favorite personal finance podcast recently! Have you done any other podcast interviews in addition to Radical Personal Finance?

    1. Oh wow! Josh never told me so I didn’t know it was out. Was it a good podcast interview? For those who are interested here’s the link:

      I’m happy to talk to anybody who has a podcast who finds financial freedom, severance negotiations, real estate investing and whatever else I write about interesting.

      I tried to start my own, but it felt like too much work so I stopped. I’d much rather just join someone else’s podcast.

      1. Excellent podcast. Consider doing some of your own! Your verbal insight is equally compelling, if not more so, than you’re writing. Really enjoyed it!

        1. Thanks Willow. There’s an ENDLESS amount of things one can do. I’ve just chosen to at least make myself available for podcasts. Creating your own is very difficult. But I think just having an editor splice and dice and create an intro would help tremendously to get things going.

  12. Great article as always!

    Though I haven’t had contact with any big name ball players, I loved “Moneyball” (both the book and the film). Reading it was one of the first times I realized the pros have to be so geographically flexible, especially with the ability to be abruptly traded to another team at the drop of a hat.

    On a side note I (along with all my criminology professors) loved the statistical basis for success predicated by “Moneyball.” Its not the “look” of the player, its the daily “base hit” success that that signifies success. Its made me a better cop as I’ll pull someone over for a violation (base hit) and see where things develop from there. Many of my peers back at a Big City PD have difficulty getting out of the car unless they think there is a felony (homerun) involved.

    1. Our agency plays the base hit game. Run every tag, pull over every person. They give a lot of verbal warnings, so they’re not after the $100 tickets here and there. But we get a lot of DWLSR and drug charges out of minor moving violations.

      I’ve always felt it made sense and was surprised to find out other agencies don’t do it. Policing is like sales — the more face to face contacts you have, the more good things happen (even if your conversion rate doesn’t increase, your nominal volume does).

  13. Not a big baseball fan personally, I only watch when the hometown team makes the series, which was not this year. However I agree with your statement it’s a small world. I’ve run into people I know randomly in foreign countries. I’ve also seen someone interview me at one company only to be my boss years later at another. Never burn a bridge.

  14. That’s such a cool story! We aren’t fans of either team – but since we ran the Chicago Marathon, we felt more tied to the Cubs than the Indians (although we did drive 3+ hours to Cleveland just to buy a mattress that we love from the Original Mattress Company!) It’s an important point about showing your rentals vacant vs. having tenants there. Sometimes losing a month’s rent to fix it up/stage it can be worth it in the long run.
    Do I know any “professiona”l athletes? Yep – Ryan Lochte. I coached swimming with his mom for a few years right out of college when he was a little guy. Was his life changed for the better quickly? Not sure about “quickly” – as it took years of work to get the fame he earned from his efforts in the pool. Some fast times in the Olympics brought many endorsements and TV show deals, but one really poor decision can change life from good to bad real quick too…

    1. Ah yes, dear Ryan. Life changes quickly in both directions. It’s one of the reasons why it’s important to stay humble. You never know when everything comes crashing down and need a helping hand.

  15. Ben Zobrist is a stud. His WAR in TB for two seasons was above 8 and had four seasons above 4. With the average win considered $5-7m. Zobrist was worth upwards of $40m a season for TB at times.

    Last season, Nate Silver did an interesting piece and said that Bryce Harper during his MVP season exceeded his value by $75m.

    I love that numbers have been brought into baseball :)

    As a Washington Nationals fan, I know the Nats GM went after him really hard but reuniting with Joe Maddon was the tipping point for Zobrist.

    He had offers from the SF Giants and Washington Nationals for 4 years/$60m but decided to pass up the extra $4m because of perceived happiness. Sadly, I think he made the right call but he would have looked great in a Nationals uniform.

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