News

A conversation with Tymber Lee

By BILL WILSON
The Wichita Eagle

Tymber Lee is no stranger to success.

The Valley Center native took the mound for some of Gene Stephenson’s best Shocker baseball clubs in the late 1990s, playing on teams that won more than 150 games.

Then after a brief tour in the minor leagues with the Anaheim Angels, Lee, 34, turned to commercial real estate, joining NAI John T. Arnold Associates a decade ago.

Lee grew up in real estate. His parents own Leewood Homes in Wichita, custom homebuilders who build homes from $150,000 to $1 million.

And he grew up in baseball, playing for the Valley Center Hornets before realizing a lifetime dream by signing with the Shockers.

After professional baseball ended —“I ran out of bullets,” Lee said — real estate was a natural fit.

“I always wanted to be self-employed,” he said. “I had that entrepreneurial bug. My grandfather’s owned several companies, and I’ve even partnered with him on a few, but I have that kind of self-employment mentality and I wanted to do something kind of like athletics.”

What did you see in NAI John T. Arnold?

“I interviewed with several different companies in town. Via my parents, I had a good in to a lot of business people in town, especially in the real estate community.

“I knew I didn’t want to do residential. I wanted to do commercial because it lent itself more to my personality, more business.

“Nothing against the other real estate firms. There’s a lot of great real estate firms around town. But when I sat down with Marlin (company president Penner) I knew I’d get the mentorship I needed.

“And growing up with my dad and grandfather, I had two great mentors there. And I had a lot of great baseball coaches, too.

“I was smart enough to know that I didn’t know everything, so I needed to find a place where I wasn’t just given a desk and a phone book.”

Why did you leave baseball after four years at Wichita State and four years with the Angels?

“I was a pitcher and it got to the point that my arm wasn’t what it used to be.

“And you’ve got all this new talent coming in every single year, every single month, and your arm backs off. That’s one reason why a lot end up quitting. I can’t keep up anymore.

“The love was still there. I still miss it every day. I pay for it every day, my arm and whatnot. I loved the camaraderie, the fraternity of the guys, and I still miss it a lot.

“It taught me a lot, but I just ran out of bullets.”

What did you learn from your baseball coaches like Gene Stephenson and pitching coach Brent Kemnitz that you’re applying in your career today?

“Gene and Brent taught me a lot. One of the things you’ll definitely hear from pro scouts is they talk about pitchers who come out of Wichita State being mentally stronger than most other college pitchers.

“Brent taught the mental side of the game more than any other aspect, so he knew because of his years teaching guys at all levels if you’re weak mentally, who cares what you can do physically?

“If you have mental toughness, that will make up for some of your shortcomings and it definitely translates into this business. You have to be mentally stable to ride the roller coaster of a self-employed commercial real estate guy.

“You aren’t guaranteed anything. You can make a lot of money, and you can starve. But you can’t be lazy, especially in this economy. You have to work twice as hard to make the same amount of money.

“Sports teaches that to you, too. Nothing is guaranteed. You still get out there and run, lift weights, bust your butt in the hopes of your dreams coming true.”

What is the biggest challenge before you as a commercial agent in Wichita today?

“Because of the economy, there’s a lot of money on the sidelines, a lot of people who are nervous. To just go out there and redefine yourself, I’ve had to get creative. You can’t sit back and say, ‘This stinks.’ You’re going to be out if you do.

“The only difference between this and baseball is my wife and kids depend on this to eat. If I get shelled, this is just a bad night on the mound. This is more important. It’s my income, my livelihood. That was a game.”