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Big League Lessons

Kevin Thompson

IT WAS JUNE 3, 2006, and I was in the starting lineup for the New York Yankees. We were in Baltimore, playing against the Orioles at Camden Yards. I went 1-for-4 in my major league debut.

A week later, I had the experience of a lifetime. June 10 was my first start at Yankee Stadium. It was a nationally broadcast Fox Saturday day game against the Oakland As. I hit my first major league home run. But what I remember most was the top of the first inning. An audience of 15,000 Yankees fans in the right-field bleachers conduct a roll call where they name each Yankee player. It’s truly a humbling experience to hear your name roared from the stands.

I played 2006 and part of the 2007 seasons for the Yankees before being sent to the Oakland As. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, you know how often players get traded. The A’s designated me for assignment after several games and the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up my contract. After I sustained a wrist injury that required surgery, the Pirates let me go.

To get back into shape for a return to the majors, I rehabbed with the Newark Bears of the independent leagues. Unfortunately, I never made it back to the majors. But while I was in Newark, I became infatuated with stocks and the financial markets. Maybe it had something to do with the way I was getting traded myself.

I watched CNBC as if it were a religion. One day, while preparing for a game with the Newark Bears, I saw on TV the owner of the Stanford Financial Group being ushered out of his building in handcuffs. My first thought was “uh-oh.”

You see, I’d saved a majority of the money I made in baseball. I’d invested it with Stanford Financial Group, which was a well-known firm in Texas, where I’m from. What was going on? The firm’s chairman, Allen Stanford, was charged with a “massive Ponzi scheme” by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was convicted of spending money that he told clients was invested in certificates of deposit in the Caribbean nation of Antigua.

Fortunately, my money wasn’t mixed up with the Antiguan CDs. The state administrator, who came in to investigate, did freeze all client accounts, however. This meant I couldn’t withdraw my money, and I could only sell securities within my account and not buy.

When my funds were released after six months, it was during one of the greatest declines in stock market history. I vowed to never let this kind of thing happen to me again. From then on, I would invest my money myself. I needed to learn everything I could about the financial markets.

I was already working my way toward a degree in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington. I completed that degree and went on to earn my Certified Financial Planner designation during the pandemic of 2020. I also hold a Retirement Income Certified Professional designation from the American College.

Today, I’ve been in the financial industry for 10 years. I manage and operate 9Innings Capital Group LLC, a fee-based financial planning firm that administers $33 million in assets. Most of our clients are business professionals who have built or are creating their own firms.

I tell clients my life story because it’s taught me important lessons. The first is to be careful with whom you associate. Some people call themselves financial planners but they only care about your portfolio or they actually work for an insurance company.

Baseball also taught me a lot about life, including how to handle the ups and downs, and about doing the proper due diligence. When playing in the major leagues, you never went into a game without having information on the team you were playing. For instance, you’d make sure you knew what the opposing pitcher would likely throw depending on the count and the game situation.

In the same way, education and due diligence are paramount in financial planning. Baseball taught me that hard work may win the battle, but being ready in all situations wins the war. True comprehensive financial planning means building a unique plan for each individual, and then providing the products and services to put that plan into action. To do that properly, a financial advisor needs to be aligned with the clients’ goals. That way, everybody wins.

Kevin Thompson is a former Major League Baseball player and now CEO of 9Innings Capital Group LLC. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and Retirement Income Certified Professional®. Kevin graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2011 with a degree in finance.

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