Just a backup plan: A’s pitcher Ross Stripling’s passion for finance started before baseball took off

Oakland A’s pitcher Ross Stripling has interests off the field that include financial literacy and guiding other players in money management. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

MESA – Ten years ago, Ross Stripling was sitting at home unable to pitch, wondering if Tommy John elbow surgery had derailed his career.

Stripling, then 24, was a promising prospect fighting to earn a spot as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 5 starter after coming off a season with a 2.82 earned run average in 127.2 innings between High A and Double A.

During that recovery time, Stripling, who is scheduled to start tonight for the Oakland A’s against the Cleveland Guardians, made strides toward a backup plan if his playing career didn’t pan out – working in personal finance.

The Texas A&M graduate with a degree in business finance did not originally plan to go down that route.

After growing up in Southlake, Texas, Stripling enrolled at A&M for its highly esteemed engineering program. After a while, he decided to switch gears and pursue a finance degree. He said he enjoyed the way finances looked toward the future instead of the past.

The initial interest came from his family. Through the years, Stripling slowly gained knowledge from both of his grandfathers who actively invested in the stock market.

“I just learned about it from talking to them and picking their brains,” he said. “I invested my own signing bonus (of $130,000) when I signed. Not that it was anything crazy, but that kind of got my feet wet with investing.”

It all came together when Stripling was sidelined for the 2014 season and started making progress toward securing his financial licenses.

“The guy that my mom’s dad invested with in Houston just kind of fielded a call from my grandfather saying, ‘Hey, my grandson has a lot of free time on his hands right now. He’s maybe looking for a fallback plan if baseball doesn’t work. Do you have anything for him?’’’ Stripling said.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I walk in, like all dressed up and have no idea what to expect, and he’s just like, ‘You know, the best thing I can do is probably get you licensed. You’d have to take your Series 7 (General Securities Representative Exam) and (Series ) 66 (Uniform Combined State Law Exam) to make you a licensed money manager.’”

The plan was for Stripling to go back to baseball and whether he was successful or not, build a network of potential clients.

The plan seems to have worked flawlessly. From his debut in 2016 to the present day, Stripling has worked with a variety of people and still actively manages 11 accounts.

In his eight years at the major league level, he has guided many of his teammates. In recent years, the idea of financial literacy, especially among athletes, has become a larger topic of discussion.

“I’ve actively tried to make sure that people are aware that I have that skill set,” Stripling said. “I’ve definitely tried to make sure that there’s an open line of communication with me and a lot of guys pick my brain.”

Stripling said he believes baseball players are generally good with money. Those with large signing bonuses often seek professional advice right away, while lower-round picks look for instruction immediately on how to budget in order to survive.

Concerns about professional athlete money management have been around for years. Fifteen years ago, Sports Illustrated published a groundbreak story that interviewed sources who suggested that 78 percent of former NFL players had gone bankrupt or were under financial stress within two years of retirement and 60 percent of NBA players were broke within five years of retirement.

And former major leaguer Jody Gerut estimates that 70 percent of foreign-born Latino players in MLB endure financial hardship within four years of retirement.

Outside of the financial side of things, Stripling has become a respected veteran arm and presence in the clubhouse. He brings a wealth of experience that comes from playing on three teams, living in two countries, making an All-Star Game appearance and taking four trips to the playoffs.

It was an easy transition for Stripling, whom the A’s acquired in February following a trade with San Francisco. He gets to walk into a clubhouse that features several former teammates, including fellow pitcher Alex Wood.

Since Stripling has been in the league, he and Wood have spent most of their careers together. They were teammates from 2016-2018 on the Dodgers before Wood was traded to the Reds in 2019. They spent most of the shortened 2020 season together in Los Angeles before Stripling was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. They went their separate ways again until last year, when Stripling joined Wood on the Giants and they followed each other to the A’s this offseason.

The two have traced a similar career path up to this point going in and out of the rotation. Stripling has often been used as a swing man, starting games occasionally or providing long middle relief.

One player Stripling and his new manager, Mark Kotsay, spoke highly of was right-handed pitcher Mitch Spence, whom the A’s picked up from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. Due to his status as a Rule 5 pick, Spence will spend most of the season on the major league roster in order to not be sent back to the Yankees organization.

Stripling has been using his experience as a “swing man” to mentor Spence, who has been competing for the No. 5 starting spot in the A’s rotation, but most likely will be used as a swing man.

Stripling said Spence has been asking for advice about how to stay ready with throwing and lifting schedules.

That ability to stay balanced in a chaotic environment has been a strength throughout Stripling’s career. From the very beginning, he was tested. There was a media flurry around him when he was pulled from his Dodgers debut with a no-hitter in the eighth. In 2020, he was traded to the Blue Jays, who were playing their home games in Buffalo, New York, due to Canada’s travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The whole time he managed to maintain his career, manage finances, and even get into podcasting. Stripling has been a regular guest on some podcasts but also used to host two of his own.

His podcast career began when he and his friend, Cooper Surles, started the “Big Swing Podcast” in 2019. The two would talk about sports and interview guests, which most commonly consisted of baseball players. In 2021, he followed that show up with a short series called “OATS: On the Bump,” which he hosted on his own. In that show he interviewed primarily baseball players and they would dive into historic players and stories.

Stripling’s podcast career mostly ended when he had his first son, Jaxon, in 2021.

“Basically, the second I had a kid, the podcast ended,” Stripling said. “I would say I’ve always kind of made the finance stuff my biggest hobby and passion away from baseball. I pick and choose my times. I do a lot on the road, especially road trips that my family doesn’t come on. I try to crank out as much stuff as I can.”

He said he tried to do the podcasts on road trips as well but it was just too much to balance. Even though he isn’t actively producing his own show, Stripling still prides himself for being available to the media in the clubhouse or on other podcasts. He views it as a chance to get his personality out there for the public.

That personality will be leading a team that Stripling said has many similarities to those Blue Jays teams he was on.

Stripling described the team as “young guys with a lot of potential and I’m kind of getting on the ground level of what could be a fun hopefully five, seven years to be an Oakland A.”

In order for that vision to come to fruition, Stripling will have to go back to work and do what he has for the last 10 years, namely adapt, overcome adversity, stay prepared and use the same approach the finance degree taught him: look to the future instead of living in the past.

It’s a mindset Stripling developed a decade ago, before he was an All-Star, before he played in two countries and through a global pandemic. Before the kids. Before he even knew he’d make it as a big-leaguer.

Now, he is a fan favorite for the teams on which he has played. And if he ever needs it, he does have that fallback plan he started back in 2014.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Stephen Buxton expects to graduate May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Buxton has experience with Varsity Sports Show calling football games for Desert Mountain this last season and AZPreps 365 reporting on local high school sports. After graduating he hopes to get a broadcasting job dreaming of one day doing play by play for football or baseball.