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Pro baseball prepared Matt Klimas for success in sales

Fourth in a six-part series on 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Matt Klimas and oldest son Knox
5f202fcd74d9aMatt Klimas and oldest son Knox
Matt Klimas and oldest son Knox

“I don’t believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.” Crash Davis to Annie Savoy in “Bull Durham”

The romance of baseball and the heart didn’t play out exactly the same for Matt Klimas as it did for Kevin Costner’s indelible character in the movie Bull Durham. Klimas did, however, find love with his now-wife of nine years, Mary, following a minor league baseball game in Augusta, Ga.

Through a mutual friend, Klimas and teammate Charlie Culberson (currently a utility infielder with the Atlanta Braves) arranged to meet a couple of girls after the game.

As the two men left the ball park and saw their potential dates near the parking lot, the players’ quick dialog plays out as lines from a baseball movie.

Culberson: I like the blonde.
Klimas: Good. I’ll take the brunette.

That scene was from 2009. Eleven years later, the couple now have three boys: Knox, 7; Jack, 5; and 8-month-old William. The family still lives in Augusta, Mary’s hometown. And, for the record, Culberson and the blonde in the story are married, as well. 

“I was staring at her the whole time,” Klimas said of that first meeting with his future bride. “It took me months to convince her to go on a date with me. Her brother was a football player at Auburn and he told her never to trust baseball guys.”

Klimas spent five years in the San Francisco Giants organization.  No longer a professional baseball player, Klimas is still a “baseball guy’ and part of a team – a cyber security sales team for an IT management support company in August, Ga.

“I always wanted to be in sales,” said the man who was a 2005 all-state baseball player for BA. “Other people will tell you that I have a large personality. I’ve always been able to talk to a brick wall.  

“I had to sell myself to college coaches and pro scouts about the intangibles that I could offer. I’ve always liked the game. I feel sales is that (a game) – on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t sell you don’t eat. I like the competitive nature of it.”

While love and baseball can be classified as games that soften the soul, sales and baseball are games that are strengthened by failures.

If you get just one extra flare a week, just one, a gork, a ground ball — a ground ball with eyes! — you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee Stadium. Crash Davis to “Nuke” LaLoosh in "Bull Durham" 

Klimas was a .276 hitter during his minor league career. Costner’s character referenced one extra hit a week would turn a .250 hitter into a .300 hitter. To make a living at either baseball and sales, the success/fail rate is similar.

“I get hung up on all the time. Every day,” Klimas explained. “We’re responsible for 100 calls a week just to meet our bare minimum. Of those 100 calls you may get three responses. Of that, three, you may get one appointment. You have to reach out to more than just the bare minimum.”

Klimas didn’t jump immediately into sales after baseball. Kansas City drafted Klimas out of high school in the 36th round of the Major League Draft. Instead of signing with the Royals, Klimas chose to play baseball at Texarkana Community College, where he earned all-conference and all-region honors as a freshman. In 2006, Klimas signed with the Giants, who drafted him in the sixth round.

Following his minor league days, Klimas enrolled in the Georgia Military Academy. He then went on to Brenau University, where he was a Dean’s List student and graduated in 2015.

“I had to finish my college degree before I could get a career in sales,” Klimas said. “Obviously, my resume wasn’t very strong, because I had just played professional baseball and that was my life’s work. I was selfishly thinking, ‘who’s not going to want to hire someone who played professional baseball.’ It doesn’t work that way. So, I knew that in order to get my foot in the door for a career in sales, I had to finish my college degree.”

He made the decision to return to school two weeks before he and Mary were married.

“My wife was like ‘absolutely. I was hoping you would make that decision on your own. I didn’t want to be the one to tell you to do that,’” Klimas recalled Mary’s reaction to his revelation.

At 24, married and eventually a father, Klimas admitted that being in class with 18 and 19-year-olds was “a little awkward.” But, school was a better fit for him in his mid-20s then it was as a teenager.

“I didn’t pay attention a lot in high school or my first year in junior college when I was that age,” he said. “I was more of the class clown. College was a little bit easier for me when I was a little older and my priorities changed.”

Though he has been in sales for five years, Klimas never totally left baseball. He still gives private lessons and in 2016 he coached Thomas Jefferson Academy to the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state championship.

“Pro ball is interesting on a resume, but people don’t what you go through. You get paid very little to do it. It’s just the life lessons that you live. You have to deal with failure on a day-to-day basis. You’ re going to fail more than you succeed. It’s the mental capacity of what you can take as far as playing on road, being away from your family, learning how to be a professional, sticking to your day-to-day schedule, how to take care of your body, provide for your team and just be an all-around good teammate.” Matt Klimas, discussing his minor league baseball career. Real life. Not a movie.

The BA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for halftime of the Sept. 4 Tiger football home-opener against the Union Redskins.