Hoo-rizons: Baseball Was Just the Beginning for Former UVA Star Hunter Wyant

Hoo-rizons: Baseball Was Just the Beginning for Former UVA Star Hunter Wyant

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If you live in Charlottesville, you’ve probably seen his face.

Perhaps on a car. A billboard. The back of a bus.

But before Hunter Wyant was the face of local State Farm insurance offices, he was the face of the University of Virginia baseball team.

In 2001, playing for former UVA head coach Dennis Womack, Wyant led UVA – not yet a baseball powerhouse – in batting average (.363), hits, runs, doubles, triples, assists and total bases. The shortstop set a single-season record for triples (seven), and, during one 15-for-22 hot streak that earned him ACC Player of the Week honors that spring, became the first UVA player to hit for the cycle – amassing a single, double, triple and home run in the same game.

But when Wyant looks back on his time at UVA, it’s the overall experience he cherishes most.

“My best memory of UVA is just the culture of learning and the support that you get from not only the student body, but everybody associated with the University – the coaches, the career center, the professors,” Wyant said recently in his downtown office. “Everyone at that time of your life is a part of helping you develop into who you are going to be, so that you’re prepared for the next level.”

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Wyant grew up in nearby White Hall. His parents ran Wyant’s Store, a general store selling everything from toothpaste to horse saddles that has been in the family for more than 100 years and once doubled as the town’s dance hall and post office.

“It was the 7-Eleven before the 7-Eleven,” said Wyant, with a smile.

Wyant used to help his father stock shelves and clean the store.

“I learned a lot of good lessons there,” he said.

Wyant starred in baseball (and also played basketball) at Western Albemarle High School. His teammates included future UVA football player Billy Baber (who went on to spend three years in the NFL) and Jason Beale, who would go on to play baseball at Virginia Tech.

Wyant is still the all-time RBI leader at Western, ranks third in home runs and is within the top six in hits, runs, wins, ERA, complete games and strikeouts.

“Hunter is on a real short list of the best players we’ve ever had,” WAHS head coach Skip Hudgins said. “He was an outstanding competitor. If you were going to beat him at anything, you were really going to have to buckle up and do well. He wasn’t going to beat himself. He was a very, very competitive kid.”

Hudgins has known Wyant since elementary school when he was his P.E. teacher.

“He came from a very strong and supportive family and was somebody in my mind who was going to be successful at whatever he wound up doing,” Hudgins said.

Wyant chose UVA over the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University and Tulane University.

“It really came down to staying home,” Wyant said. “I had been fortunate enough to have my entire family watch me play sports – everyone from my parents to my grandparents to my sisters and brother.

“I realized it didn’t make a lot of sense to go away when I could go to an institution with a good baseball program and academic opportunity right here.”

Wyant was immediately a force in the middle of the Hoos’ lineup. Womack ranks Wyatt within the top six or seven hitters he ever coached.

“Right from Day 1, he could swing the bat,” recalled Womack, who coached at UVA from 1980 to 2003. “You’d like to have all nine of your players be able to hit good pitching, but real good pitching is hard to hit. The reality of it is it that sometimes you have a couple guys in your lineup who can handle real good pitching – they’re not intimidated, they’re not overwhelmed and they have good at-bats against top-quality pitching. Hunter was one of those guys.”

Womack always wanted Wyant on base with runners on and in the most crucial situations. He recalled a home run Wyant hit on the road against then-juggernaut University of Miami that propelled the Hoos to a win.

“He was a clutch hitter,” Womack said. “And the better the pitcher, he took that on as a challenge.

“I always kind of felt like he could hit anybody.”

Womack said Wyant was soft-spoken and well-liked.

“I’m not trying to embarrass him,” Womack said, “but when we used to travel and walk through the airport, he sort of turned the girls’ heads. He was one of those guys who kind of had those movie-star looks.”

Wyant started with one company car. He now has eight. (Photo by Whitelaw Reid)

After graduating from UVA with a degree in economics, Wyant was selected in the 16th round of the 2001 Major League Baseball draft by the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. He spent three years in the minor leagues, climbing to the High A level before deciding to call it quits.

“It was a tough decision, because you think it’s something you’re going to do your whole life,” Wyant said, “but I also had started preparing for life after baseball. Obviously, there’s a lot of shock when you leave sports and go into the regular workforce, but UVA and my life in sports taught me the discipline and gave me the grit, confidence and work ethic to prosper in the business world.”

At first, Wyant wasn’t sure what, specifically, he wanted to go into. In 2003, he interviewed for several jobs within the financial services industry.

Ultimately, he accepted an offer from State Farm as a financial services representative. One of the big selling points was the fact that, if he proved himself, he would have the right to own his own State Farm office.

After just six months, Wyant earned spot in the company’s leadership program, and in 2005 he was approved to run his own office in Purcellville. In December of 2009, Wyant opened an office in Charlottesville. He later added one in Short Pump. (He closed the Purcellville location.)

Wyant credits his time at UVA and background in sports for his success.

“Just the people skills that you develop from being at a place like Virginia is as important as anything,” he said, “but I definitely gained some financial acumen from all of the coursework I had in math and economics.

“I made mistakes, but I was willing to put myself out there and go through a maturation process to gain the skills that I needed to advance my career.”

Wyant started with one company car. He now has eight. (Photo by Whitelaw Reid)
Wyant now has offices in Charlottesville and Short Pump. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

When he was just starting out in 2005, Wyant decided to put his photo and signage on the side of his Toyota Scion company car.

Today, he has eight company cars that bear his likeness. In addition, he has an array of billboards and signage throughout Charlottesville, as well as a number of radio and television commercials.

Wyant is approached all the time by people who recognize him.

Wyant said he has always enjoyed – and had a knack for – marketing.

“It’s just a matter of people knowing about you and getting your brand out there,” he said. “What I tell my new employees is that once you have that brand, it’s important to protect that brand and grow that brand. And you do that by just doing what you say you’re going to do, doing the right thing for people and helping people out. Being introspective and learning about people is a lot of what marketing is. There’s no magic or trick to that. It just starts with having a winning game plan and good people around you.”

No doubt, Wyant is winning. Since 2009, he has been ranked as the No. 1 or 2 State Farm agency out of around 19,000 nationally.

For the last several years, Wyant has shared his knowledge as a mentor through the UVA Career Center.

“He’s a very experienced business owner, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can,” said Nash Griffin, a rising fourth-year in UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, who is interning at State Farm this summer. “If I’m going to run my own business, he knows all the ins and outs. He has made mistakes so that I hopefully don’t have to.”

Wyant also takes pride in being active in the community. In conjunction with the Charlottesville Police Department, he holds annual Easter egg hunts and holiday toy drives for low-income neighborhoods He has partnered with Wal-Mart for a program that provides school supplies for local children  and has also helped fund scholarships for high school student-athletes. On July 25, he’s renting out a movie theater for an event dubbed “First Responders Night.”

“I feel like I’ve been blessed to have the experiences and opportunities that I have, and so helping others have opportunities is important to me,” Wyant said.

When he’s not working, Wyant is enjoying life with his three kids, who range in age from 9 months to 6 years old.

Wyant said his wife, Kristina, who runs a State Farm office of her own across the street from Albemarle High School, has been instrumental in helping him achieve work-life balance. “She makes sure that we’re taking care of our employees and our customers, but also our family as well,” he said. “That’s a priority.”

Last season, Wyant – whose nephew, Tanner Morris, played shortstop for UVA for the last two seasons before being drafted and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays – bumped into Womack at a UVA baseball game.

“I don’t see him too much, but I see his picture on all the billboards and keep thinking, ‘Maybe I should change my insurance to him,’” said the former UVA skipper, with a laugh. “You never know what direction your players are going to go and what career they will settle into.

“Obviously he has found his niche and does it very, very well. … When I think of State Farm, I think of Hunter Wyant – and that’s a big company.”

“It’s just really neat when a local kid does very well,” Western’s Hudgins added. “It’s your hometown-boy-makes-good story, which always warms your heart.

“He’s a really nice young man. I’m really proud of him.”

Believe it or not, Wyant’s original Toyota Scion is still kicking. His interns drive it now.

“I’ve had to refurbish it about four times now,” said Wyant, smiling, “but it just keeps going.”

Media Contact

Whitelaw Reid

University News Associate Office of University Communications