Major League Baseball and the produce industry might not exactly go hand-in-hand, but for 26-year-old Brian Lapin the love and pursuit of one led to a promising career in the other.
Mr. Lapin first began working for Madera, CA-based Stellar Distributing Inc. three years ago as something to do during his off-season from the minor leagues, where he played for an affliate of the Colorado Rockies as well as an independent team in Michigan. Little did he know this “intermittent job” would eventually turn into a full-time position in sales with the international produce company that specializes in fresh figs, kiwifruit, persimmons, pomegranates and limes.
“I went and played my last year [of baseball] and then I came back and askedKurt [Cappelluti] if I could work here again and he said ‘yeah, of course,’“ Mr. Lapin recalled. “So I just kind of did quality-control stuff and drove food around in our bobtail trucks and did all sorts of stuff in the fields, just learning the ropes basically. And then I just trickled into the sales office.”
Mr. Lapin was promoted to sales at Stellar Distributing in February, and so far, he is thoroughly enjoying it.
“It’s actually really fun, you always have something to do, you’re always on your toes, you’re always thinking and working,” he said. “It’s action-packed. I was in the office before I got promoted, so I’ve been doing this for a while, just not with as much responsibility and freedom as I have now.”
While Mr. Lapin is fully committed to his career in the produce industry, a part of him will always long for the fresh-cut fields, bright stadium lights, dugouts, pitcher’s mounds and peanuts that define one of America’s favorite pastimes.
“Still, I’m a baseball player at heart,” he said. “I could go play right now if I wanted to, but it’s just so hard to make it. There’s a lot of business involved in sports that most people never even see. There’s a lot of stuff that’s out of your control, so I just kind of decided it was time for me to be done.”
Although Mr. Lapin’s baseball career is now part of his past, he has been able to use the lessons he learned from the game he loved to help further his future.
“Listening and learning — you have to do a lot of that in baseball,” he said. “You don’t get to the position you want to be in without doing those things. And I feel like that’s the same way with sales. You’re never going to know it all, and you’re always going to become better as long as you don’t act like you know everything.”
Thankfully for Mr. Lapin, listening and learning are two things he’s exceptionally good at. As a 2007 graduate of Fresno State University, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he is now taking his education one step further by pursuing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, on top of working full time for Stellar Distributing.
“I’m just planning on finishing it,” Mr. Lapin said of obtaining his master’s degree. “I really want to see where sales will take me. I don’t want to shut off any option. There seems to be so much potential here, so I don’t want to say no to that.”
And where there’s potential to grow, there’s potential to prosper, which is exactly what the ambitious former ball player intends to do.
“I hope that I am here five years from now and have become established and have become somebody that’s good at my job,” he said. “That’s the goal and I figure if I keep working hard at it and learning everything I can, that will eventually happen.”
When it comes to being a rookie in an industry full of veterans, Mr. Lapin doesn’t let his relatively young age or status hinder him. After all, he’s used to thriving under pressure — especially when the bases are loaded.
“I think that when talking to a 26-year-old, [customers] might have some hesitation on whether or not we can get stuff done for them,” he said. “I think the longer you’re involved in [the industry], the more they see that you are doing the right job, and they’ll build the confidence. With experience comes trust. They can kind of educate me, and that’s good, I’m willing to learn from anybody.”