The Origin of IMPACT Players with Matt Wimmer | Podcast Episode 007
About This Episode -
Join us today to hear from Matt Wimmer, the founder of IMPACT Players, about his journey from the Sandlot and backyard baseball to the Seattle Mariners and how God took him on a journey he never expected.
Matt Wimmer currently serves as the CEO of SAMBICA. He's been a baseball player, coach, and entrepreneur. He founded IMPACT Players in 2006 and continues to be involved with the organization as it inspires men to be better fathers, husbands, and leaders.
To find out more about IMPACT Players, visit www.impactplayers.org.
Show Notes -
- The Man in the Mirror: Solving the 24 Problems Men Face by Patrick Morley
- God Owns My Business: They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But Formally and Legally... by Stanley Tam
Warren Mainard: Hello and welcome back for another edition of the IMPACT Players Podcast. My name is Warren Mainard and IMPACT Players is an organization dedicated towards inspiring men to be great husbands, fathers, and leaders. And today, I'm thrilled to have the founder of IMPACT Players and a good friend of mine, Matt Wimmer, here with us today. Matt, thank you for taking time out of a busy and long week to join us for this podcast.
Matt Wimmer: Hey, it's great to be here, Coach Warren. I'm excited to see where the Lord leads in our conversation this afternoon.
Warren Mainard: Well, Matt, many people know you around this community as just a rock; as a guy that people can turn to, connect with. There's so many stories that I've heard other men share about the impact that you've made in their lives. And I think about, this may make you a little bit uncomfortable, Matt, but I think about some of the stories that I used to read when I was a kid. I don't know if you ever had any of these little books, but do you remember the little kids' books that they used to print that had the story of Jim Thorpe or the story of Babe Ruth. And it was just a short biography about some of those well-known players, athletes.
Matt Wimmer: I think I might have had one of those with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So yeah, I think I...
Warren Mainard: Yeah, Jackie Robinson or Hank Aaron and what I loved about those stories and what I continue to love about those kind of stories is learning a little bit about the origin of that player, of that person that has somehow become well known. So I'd love for you, Matt, to maybe give us the abridged kid's version of your origin story. Where are you from? How you got here? What led you to this point of being CEO of SAMBICA and founder of IMPACT Players? Maybe just give us a little bit of your background.
Matt Wimmer: You know, as you share that Warren, what immediately comes to mind is the movie 'Sandlot.'
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: And if you saw the movie 'Sandlot,' that was my childhood. Our front yard was literally the baseball diamond. First base was a fence post that would always break, much to my father's chagrin. Second base was a sprinkler head that, again, would always pop off again, much to my father's chagrin. Third base was a giant bush. And you can see how this is all playing out. And eventually my father just said, I give up. It's no longer a front yard. It's the local baseball diamond. So...
Warren Mainard: That's great.
Matt Wimmer: ...we would literally play to, from sunup to sundown. And it didn't matter what inning, I mean, it, we would play inning after inning after inning. Guys would come in and head out and we would just play baseball all day long. And that really actually continued. I remember when my parents moved up here to Washington State and the baseball diamond, it was now on a cul-de-sac, and it was kind of the same deal. There was a big street lamppost that was first base. There was a manhole cover for home, and we just made do with what we had and recruited all the kids in the neighborhood, and we would play baseball all day long. So, I really just, for whatever reason, had this huge love and passion for the game of baseball. I wanted to teach the game of baseball to every single kid in the neighborhood. And we just, look back, I say we, especially my brother John and I look back, it was with such great memories of all the boys that we established relationships with over all those years.
Warren Mainard: That is so cool. And I can, just the way that you told the story, I can completely imagine that. Now baseball continued to be a part of your life, really, even until today. But tell us a little bit about that baseball journey and where did God begin to intersect in the story?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, that's a great question. I got to play what's called American Legion Baseball, which I thoroughly enjoyed, ended up walking on at the University of Washington. So go Dawgs! I love that you're wearing the purple and gold. I always wanted to play baseball in college. And the University of Washington was a school that I really fell in love with, but I was not recruited by them so I ended up walking on. I'll keep the story very short, but I walked on with 150 other guys. It was a three day tryout. And the coaching staff said, we're going to put the names on the list for those guys that are invited back the next day. Well, to this day, I don't even know if my name was on the list. So there was three spots open on the first day of workouts. Four of us ended up showing up, so I don't even know if I was supposed to be there or not, but maybe they thought, well, this guy has enough audacity to come out, even after we've cut him, we'll let him stick around. So they let me stick around, which was great. I got to forge just some great relationships, lifelong relationships with a lot of great baseball players. And eventually, I got to see the field. I got to get on the field and there's more to that story. But, the bottom line was, I had the joy of getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners, after my junior season playing with the Huskies.
Warren Mainard: And what position did you play?
Matt Wimmer: I played left bench.
Warren Mainard: Left bench, okay. Now I haven't heard of that.
Matt Wimmer: I'll try to keep this very short, but I actually tried out with Huskies as a shortstop. I was probably fifth in the depth chart and so I had to figure out maybe I need to look for a different position. Number one in that spot was a guy named Kevin Stocker who went to go play with the Philadelphia Phillies. So, I moved to catcher and at catcher, at least, I moved from fifth in the depth chart up to fourth in the depth chart. And one of the things though I realized was the pitchers always need to throw bullpens. So whenever a pitcher was saying, I need to throw a bully, I'd raise my hand and say, I got it. I'd run down to the bullpen and catch them and take all the bump, you know, bruises across the body as they short hopped the curve balls and everything, but I loved it. I loved it. I loved the game. Eventually though however, I, there was something that God had given me, and that was speed. And it's, you can't have a catcher who outruns everybody else on the field. So I became a center fielder after that. And then that's the rest of the story is playing outfield for the Huskies.
Warren Mainard: Yeah. That's great. That's great. So who was your favorite, baseball player growing up?
Matt Wimmer: Well, growing up, was actually a Los Angeles Dodger. And for whatever reason, I really liked a guy named Steve Garvey.
Warren Mainard: Oh, yeah. Okay, great. Great. Absolutely. Well, so this baseball journey is taking you in a unique place. Further than you ever thought you would go and yet, at the same time, you're also having this unique encounter with God. Tell us a little bit about that part of your story.
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, I'm thankful you asked that. As a walk-on, that's, you go through some very trying times. You're certainly questioning your own abilities. There are times maybe where you're not necessarily included, not, you know, and just certain things.
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: A lot of that might be self-imposed, who knows. But, there's actually a book, I'll grab it here from my bookshelf. Someone gave me this book and it's called 'The Man in the Mirror.' And...
Warren Mainard: Yeah, that looks familiar!
Matt Wimmer: I don't think the, I don't think the audience is going to say that wasn't planned. But, you and I did not premeditate this, so written by Patrick Morley, someone handed me this book and I poured over this book. I poured over this book. I've been a follower of Jesus Christ my entire life. Ever since I was a little boy. I was sitting in the backseat with my parents on a vacation to Southern California. We were coming over a hill into a valley. There was a great cloud with a silver lining. The rays, sun's rays coming from behind it. And I asked my mom, "Is this heaven?" And she said, "No, it's Los Angeles." But I said, "Mom..."
Warren Mainard: Nobody asked that question anymore.
Matt Wimmer: But I said, "Mom, am I going to get to go to heaven?" And she said something that forever changed my life. She said, "It depends. It depends on who leads your heart." So I prayed to receive Christ into my life at a very, very young age in the backseat of the, of my parents' car. And it had, and had been a follower of Christ my entire life. But it wasn't until college where I would kind of just open up God's Word periodically. But someone handed me this book, and it's written to men, and it talks about solving the 24 problems that men face. And wow, the scriptures that are in the book, the questions that are in the book resonated big time for me. I was still too young to understand a lot of the topics, 'cause I didn't yet. I wasn't married, didn't have a family didn't, I wasn't in the business world yet, et cetera. But man, the book just really, really was a game changer for me. I also went through the book, a small group of young men when I was married, as a young professional. And, that was really the first time that we kind of went through something, together as a study, so.
Warren Mainard: So in college, you have this convergence of God and sports, and yet that's also, I believe, where you met your future wife. Is that correct?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, I got to, had the joy of meeting the beautiful Miss Cindy. And we were introduced via some other athletes. And she was a, in a sorority so some of her sorority sisters and some of the guys. In fact, it was the Husky quarterback at the time, Mark Brunell, was dating his now wife, Stacy. Stacy was a sorority sister of Cindy's and they were really the two matchmakers that put Cindy and I together. Along with a couple of my baseball teammates, they were like: hey, hey, there's this girl over here, hey! So, yeah.
Warren Mainard: That's great. That's great. And Cindy has a unique background with SAMBICA as well, doesn't she?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah. I mean, this place is near and dear to her heart. When she was a teenage camper, she did something that's called 'proclamation.' And on proclamation, it's where the campers are invited down to the stage, and they can proclaim that they'd like to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And so she did that as a teenager, and a fun story, where all the kids came down. And, the program director just said, "I think there's one more." And Cindy said, "It's me." And she came down and made that proclamation as a teenager.
Warrren Mainard: That is fantastic. That is fantastic. So, Matt, tell us a little bit about your family and, as you do, maybe share a little bit of how IMPACT Players was born out of the desire to really lead your family well.
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, that's a great question. We have three teenagers. Well, I should know this, actually, our oldest is now 20 . So, but we have a son and two daughters and I love them greatly. I'm very proud of them, and I love being a dad. And really, as a small business owner, post those baseball playing days and post-college and post working for a big financial company, I became an entrepreneur. And it's probably as an entrepreneur that this book and, a book that's mentioned in here called 'God Owns My Business' by Stanley Tam really started to resonate with me. And, just like in the book, the focus is on 'what is the purpose of my life?' And it's, our identity is not in being a business owner, or even a husband or father in that, in that respect. It's that we're followers of Jesus Christ, and we happen to be fathers, or husbands, or business owners, or just people: executives or working, or whatever it might be. So, I think for me, that there was a key friendship. There was a key friendship, that I watched my friend make a series of what I would call selfish decisions, that really ended his marriage and ended his business and made the relationship with his children very, very difficult. And those, I think, events created an opportunity for something different. What if we were to meet men in the gap, meet men in the gap before getting to that place, what might happen in a positive sense. And that was the birth of IMPACT Players.
Warren Mainard: Yeah. And so now, 16 years later, IMPACT Players is still going. We're in an exciting phase of this organization with me now stepping into this role as executive director. And you mentioned some key friends, and one of the things that the Lord really did in my life several years ago was I, in many ways, like you went to went to college, was able to walk on and earn a scholarship playing collegiate tennis, met my wife Leah there, so very similar. I did not go on to the professionals, but after that, graduated, went to seminary, and then really dove in headfirst with my career and ministry. And I was about 28 years old, and I had a newborn daughter. My wife and I were in a town where we really didn't have any family nearby. And I had been so driven and focused on the ministry, aka for me, my career, that I had this moment where it dawned on me that I didn't have any friends. That the only people that I was interacting with were the students that was serving and their parents, and then the staff that I was serving with. But I had not done anything to invest in any relationships, particularly with any other men since leaving college, like six years earlier. And that was a real wake up call for me because I realized that there's an important role that friends play in your life, especially when things begin to get difficult when you're looking for somebody else to commune with and talk to that's outside of your wife or outside of the people that you work with or work for. Now, I share all this because after I had that epiphany that I didn't have any friends, I really became intentional to say, okay, I need to invest in building friendships. And one of the things that I learned was if I wanted to have friends, it was me that was going to have to pick up the phone. That it just didn't happen like it did in school, right? Or when you're on a team, it just doesn't happen when you get into your career and you have kids, and life gets busy. You've got to make it happen. You've got to get busy with it, pick up the phone and start building, putting into that deposit. And God has blessed me since then with a tremendous number of amazing friendships. So a year ago, this time, March of 2020, when the world was falling apart and we were all wondering, what are we going to do?
Matt Wimmer: Right.
Warren Mainard: I had no idea what was about to transpire in my life. But as you know, Matt, I ended up getting let go from my position with Seattle Youth For Christ due to concerns and worries about the impact of the coronavirus on giving. And so they made kind of a preemptive decision to cut my salary. And on that ride home from being told that I was being let go, which I'd never been told that my entire life, I made five phone calls after calling my wife. I made five phone calls to five male friends and just said, "This is what's going on in my life. Will you pray for me?" And you were one of those people. And that really turned out to be a pretty transformative phone call because a couple days later you gave me a call back and said, "Hey, Cindy and I were praying for you and we want you to consider praying about becoming the first executive director of IMPACT Players." And as they say, the rest is history. Here we are nine months later and things are up and running, and God is moving in that direction. But I wonder, Matt, as you kind of hear that story, talk a little bit about the importance of having that cadre of men? Almost having, like David had those mighty men, or even like a, almost like having a personal board of directors in your life. How have you seen the benefits of that?
Matt Wimmer: How have I seen the benefits of that.
Warren Mainard: Or what's that been like in your life?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, no, it's a great question. I think as you asked that, one of the things I think of immediately is a ceremony that we did for my son: a knighting ceremony. And inviting a lot of friends to come share their life experiences with him at a kind of a formidable age and doing the same thing, with both of our daughters. And of course those being more Cindy's friends. There was no guys there, it was all the ladies, but...
Warren Mainard: Right.
Matt Wimmer: ...organizing the teas. But yeah, I think that even just this morning, I was texting one of those old friends that I had the joy of playing baseball with, and just reaching out to him and, asking how I could be praying with him. And just yesterday reaching out to a, another mutual friend that we have through IMPACT Players, just to provide encouragement. So how do I benefit? I think I benefit in my marriage, certainly as men challenge me and their relationships with their wives, I think I've, my children, I hope benefit, as I get, creative ideas and better ways to love them. I and as I hear just other men's stories, it actually inspires me to take things just a little bit higher. Today, actually, we're going to be celebrating our youngest, her 16th birthday, and...
Warren Mainard: Congratulations.
Matt Wimmer: Yeah. Thank you. Well, it's congratulations to her. This may not seem like a lot, but it's just a little birthday card that I put together, and I'm not going to suggest that I'm very creative, but it's just a little birthday card. In the photograph, it will memorialize her first high school varsity moment. And so I thought that would be a cool thing to memorialize. But then I, and then I created just a personal message on the back.
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: And the personal message is important because the world will definitely try to tear down our children. And so I think, children, my, I know my children do, and I think all children benefit so greatly that have, if they have a father who will encourage them when needed, who will comfort them when needed, and will urge them on when needed. And I'm not making that up, that's from God's word. Those are instructions for us as fathers. But I love hearing how other men are doing that. And just seeing little examples like this one where I go, well, I could probably put something like that together. I'd certainly do it if I was trying to land the big deal or the big contract and so why wouldn't I spend a little bit of time and put something like that together that helps memorialize a very special day?
Warren Mainard: Right.
Matt Wimmer: And again, this is maybe a, I'm taken from another question, but this all came about because of the last IMPACT Players breakfast. Which is that, fun monthly event that we do. And I was inspired by the topic and I was like, okay, here's one of those moments that I get to put the stuff back.
Warren Mainard: Yeah, those rite of passage moments are so meaningful. And I was, even as I presented on it, I was challenged by am I keeping this in the forefront of my own life and parenting and marriage as well? And I think, I love the story you told it earlier about, getting a group of men and guys around your son, Michael, and knighting him; giving him this sword and having other men, other than you, that would speak blessings into his life. And I know that that's a moment that he'll forever, forever cherish. And I'm sure that that in its entirety did not come originally from you, but you took the time to really think about how to tailor that to what would best fit your own family.
Matt Wimmer: You're exactly right. Yeah. My ideas never come from myself, that's for sure. So I definitely rely on the inspiration from God, but, and I think, God provides us different ideas et cetera through the comradery of men.
Warren Mainard: Right. Alright. So, Matt, in your estimation just describe what is an impact player? Where'd the name come from? I mean, I know you're an athlete, so I kind of know, but just for those that might be listening, where did the name come from and what is an IMPACT Player to you?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, I think what an impact player is, it's not something that's necessarily done in secret. And again, it's not looking for the approval of men, but what I love is that an impact player, when they come onto the court or when they come onto the field, it raises the entire level of the entire team. There's like an excitement when an impact player comes on that the team is like, okay, here we go, here we go, here we go. We're either scoring a touchdown, either a run's going to be scored, we're getting some buckets, I mean, to use those sports analogies, but when the impact player enters the game, everyone is elevated.
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: And the impact player loves to compete and compete hard. One of my favorite quotes, was hearing about, Hakeem Olajuwon, and he was a basketball player for the Houston Rockets. And his teammates would say that they hated playing against Hakeem Olajuwon in practice because Hakeem played in practice like it was the seventh game of the NBA World Championships. That's an impact player. An impact player, whether it's practice, whether it's the real deal, is given it 110%. They're making big plays in big moments, but also picking up teammates, picking up teammates constantly. So that's kind of where the whole term comes from.
Warren Mainard: Yeah. I love it. I love it. And IMPACT Players has had an impact on many men throughout this community over the years, helping men grow as husbands, literally restoring marriages, helping men who are on their second marriage get things right the second time around. It's helped men as fathers, those men that really wanted to create those special moments and got some wonderful practices and encouragement from IMPACT, but also helping to restore broken relationships and even just to encouragement as they go through those difficult challenges with their kids. And then as leaders and really equipping men to be successful not only at home, but at work as well. And I think that that gives IMPACT, to me, a really unique place in the fabric of this community in a way that not a lot of other organizations or places can offer. What is it about the culture of IMPACT that allows men to come in, to walk into a breakfast, to join a cohort, and really no matter where they're at in their spirituality, find a place where they can really connect?
Matt Wimmer: Yeah, I think there's a couple things. I think, one, the breakfasts are in the setting of a camp, so there's something very relaxing about that, very comfortable about that. I just, I love when there's a fire in the fireplace and it's just one of those, it brings back a lot of memories, I think, for a lot of us. Sometimes I too, I think of it almost as like a healthy locker room. As again, someone who enjoys sports, I always wanted there to, I always wanted, and as a coach, want to make sure that it's a healthy locker room. You can have unhealthy locker rooms, but making sure it's a healthy locker room setting. And so I think it's just, guys feel very comfortable coming into an IMPACT breakfast. Well, we all love breakfast. I think, there's always the bacon. We joke about the bacon. And so delicious food. Quickly we realized I think, that, hey, these guys here are just like I am. No ones putting on airs, flaunting anything. Just, these are just guys just like I am - trying to do a little bit better, trying to do a little bit better, get some ideas. I always like to talk about nuggets. My goal is I always just want to walk away with one or two nuggets that helps me in my relationship with my beautiful wife, that helps me in my relationship with my three kids. That helps me as a leader in the different roles that God assigns me to. I just want to come away with a nugget or two. And I always am guaranteed that that happens.
Warren Mainard: Well when it comes to priceless nuggets, there's no better place to get good truth than from the Bible: God's word. And, Matt, you have a really unique practice of spending time in God's word in the morning, but then taking it with you throughout the day. So many men will walk up to you at different points of the week and they'll say, all right, what's in your back pocket? Tell us a little bit about the origin of this 'back pocket' story and why that's so important to you?
Matt Wimmer: Here it is.
Warren Mainard: Yep.
Matt Wimmer: It started back in May of 2003. In May of 2003, ironically, that friend that I just mentioned earlier in this episode, called me out of the blue. He was playing, for the California Angels at the time. And he said, have you ever read the book of Nehemiah? At the time, I couldn't have told you the first thing about the book. But, we started to read the book together. And, as I read the book, as a small business owner with my first company, the words just came flying off the page. And I wasn't trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, like Nehemiah was in the story. I was trying to build the walls of the business, but wow. I mean, I was literally real life going through everything that Nehemiah was. So it started a practice that every single morning, it's my non-negotiable. I get up, I have the same emotions that everyone else does, whether we're beginning or ending the day, and I just surrender everything over to God and I start diving into God's Word for specific instruction throughout the day. And then just as you mentioned, I write it on a three by five card so that as I, again, face all those emotions throughout a day. And I'm glad you asked me to do this 'cause, being transparent and vulnerable with everybody on the call as we were getting on this call, yeah, I was, I was having one of those roller coaster, I was down in the down moment.
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: And so now see, this is in real life. My good friend and brother, coach Warren is saying, what's in the back of your pocket? What's...
Warren Mainard: That's right.
Matt Wimmer: What's it say? This one's cool because there's context behind this, but I'm going to read what it says first, and I can share the context if you want to. It says, "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Now in context, this was written about Pharaoh, and it goes on to say that Pharaoh's heart was hard. But I really loved just the words as I read this, "I've raised you up for this very purpose." This could be written about any one of us. "That I might show you my power," and that that being God, "and that my name," that again being God, "might be proclaimed in all the earth."
Warren Mainard: Right.
Matt Wimmer: And so, I do believe that, that God has a plan for each of us.
Warren Mainard: Yeah.
Matt Wimmer: Plan to prosper us. It is a plan not to harm us. And it is a plan to give us a good hope and a good future. And, all he wants is just for us to receive his love.
Warren Maianrd: That's right.
Matt Wimmer: So that's my card in the pocket. And what I'm trying to do each day is in those moments, pull the card out and be reminded, okay, wait a second here. I have raised you up for this very purpose.
Warren Mainard: Yes.
Matt Wimmer: So yeah.
Warren Mainard: Yeah. And that's, I mean, that's a great scripture. And even with the story of Pharaoh, it's just a great reminder that you can have power and wealth and fame, but if your heart is hard towards God, the end will be your own destruction. There's no life, there's no life in any of those things other than with God. So that's a great story, and I love that about you, and I've seen that play out many, many times. And I'm thankful that the Lord continues to use you, your family, your influence, both with SAMBICA and also in IMPACT Players. And, so we're going to go ahead and wrap it up, but do you have any final thoughts or encouragement for any guys that might be listening to this podcast today?
Matt Wimmer: I think, as it relates to the marriage relationship, you're exactly right. That God's word is the playbook. And I think, in the marriage relationship, the best thing we can do is lead spiritually. Now, we're not going to be able to do that naturally. I'm fallen, we're all falling, we all fall short. But I think the best way that we can do that is simply by asking our wife, "Hey, would you be willing to read with me?" And you know what I mean by that is pick a book and just read it together. And what I mean by together, it could be actually together, or it could be separate. And then you come back together and say, well, what did you get out of it? Here's what I got out of it. And I think that has truly been, when Cindy and I are absolutely the closest. We are made in God's image, male and female. And I think that when we get to see both perspectives, I think it gives us the true sense of who God is. So that's kind of what I would lead is kids are going to benefit if the marriage is strong. So if we're reading God's word together and obviously praying together, I don't think we can move on.
Warren Mainard: I love it. That's a great word of encouragement. Thank you, Matt. And if you're listening to this podcast or watching this YouTube video and that even the idea of reading the Bible with your wife seems intimidating, I want to invite you to get more connected with IMPACT Players. Be a part of our breakfast, join a cohort, because there are men in our groups who joined not even having a relationship with God themselves, had never said a prayer before, never led their family over prayer, over a meal before. And we'll walk with you through this. We'll help you. We'll give you the tools, the resources to help you be successful in leading your family, loving them well, and drawing them into a closer relationship with God. So with that, we're going to wrap it up. Thank you, Coach, for being a part of this podcast with us. This is the first, this will definitely not be the last. So we'll keep it short for that purpose so that we have plenty of meat on the bone to go back to time and time again. But thank you again for listening. If you like this podcast, please be sure to subscribe to us on Apple iTunes or whatever you listen to, and if you will rate us and leave a review that'll help us get the word out. But with that, we'll wrap this up and say thanks again.