In 1998, Matt Klentak was handed his high school diploma from Xaverian Brothers High School. A little over 17 years later, he was named the youngest General Manager in Philadelphia Phillies history. Matt was kind enough to offer Xaverian an inside peek into his journey from Clapboardtree Street to the corner office.
Matt, a baseball player as a Hawk, went on to play at Dartmouth College and graduated with an economics degree in 2002. Upon graduation, he got a job in the Colorado Rockies baseball operations department, which was followed by a position in labor relations for Major League Baseball in New York. While there, he helped put together the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement. Klentak was then hired as the Director of Baseball Operations for the Orioles and stayed until 2011. It was there that he got to know the current Phillies President, Andy MacPhail. Klentak then traveled to the other side of the country to Los Angeles, where he worked as the Assistant General Manager of the Angels, mainly handling arbitration, contracts, and other roster issues. His journey to the General Manager position culminated in 2016 when he was named the Phillies Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager.
The good part? Klentak said that he enjoys the challenge of leading 200+ people and “keeping everyone focused on the same goals...maintaining positive and relentless communication at all times.” His colleagues are also a benefit. “I am fortunate that some of my colleagues are also some of my best friends,” he said. “We spend so much time together...it’s really important to enjoy the time you spend with your colleagues.”
But losing, he said, is the hard part of the job. “Even the best teams will lose close to 40% of their games. That’s 40% of your spring/summer that you go home disappointed. That’s tough.” It’s not just the losing, but also balancing the desire of the fans with the team’s long term goals: “I hate losing, and I can certainly relate to our passionate fans who want to win NOW. Trust me, I want to do that, too. But I also have a responsibility to the organization to build a sustainable winner.”
Klentak spoke fondly of his Xaverian experience, crediting his teachers and coaches for the positive community environment. He said, “I am thankful every day that my parents gave me the opportunity to attend Xaverian” and says he owes his personal success to teamwork, collaboration, and communication. “Discipline is also very important,” he added, “especially as the Phillies have gone through a rebuild for the last three years.”
Ryan Plunkett and Jonathan Chemburkar, Xaverian graduates from the Class of 2015, recently secured full-time positions with the Phillies as a Quantitative Analyst and Software Engineer, respectively. Klentak shed light on this, saying “They are incredibly talented. They fit in well with our organizational culture. And we are thrilled to have them onboard and helping us win a World Series championship.”
Matt offers this to current Xaverian students, hoping to follow their own dreams: “It’s a grind and there really are no shortcuts. The hours are long, the travel is tough, and the sacrifices are very real. But if you love it, it will never feel like a job.”