Meyer Lucas Real Estate President Holly Meyer Lucas in her Jupiter office on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Meyer Lucas — the wife of Ed Lucas, former Marlins player and current Marlins coach — runs a real estate company based out of Jupiter and specializes in helping ballplayers find places to live, be it for spring training or, increasingly, year-round homes. Her company recently expanded to the Phoenix area, where she serves the same clientele. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS)
For Palm Beach County in Florida, late January means it’s almost time for an annual influx of seasonal residents, all of them quite athletic and many of them quite wealthy: baseball players.
With the Marlins and Cardinals based in Jupiter, and the Astros and Nationals based in West Palm Beach, upward of 200 major league spring training attendees — not to mention dozens of other team employees and hundreds of other minor leaguers — will descend upon the county’s northeast corner by mid-February for about six weeks.
For Meyer Lucas Real Estate, late January means the phones are always ringing and the computers always dinging. MLRE, a team of 12 agents led by founder/president Holly Meyer Lucas, has a reputation for serving baseball players and other high-profile sports figures. And many of those incoming seasonal residents are still in need of a place to plunk down for the spring, even in this late date.
Of those still looking, half are players and their families who only just signed with teams. They couldn’t find a place to live until they knew where they were going. The others don’t have the same excuse.
"The other half are single guys who — they do this every year — call me on their way to spring training and are like, ‘Hey, I need a rental. I have a pit bull. Find me something, Holly! You can do it,’ " Meyer Lucas said.
Baseball families have become Meyer Lucas’s niche because her family is one. When she and her husband, Ed Lucas, a former Marlins player and current Marlins coach, decided in 2014 to settle in Jupiter, she was transitioning out of a career in medical sales.
Meyer Lucas, now 31, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do professionally. But she had a knack for finding short-term, short-notice housing for her and Ed during their many moves around the country — from Salt Lake City to New Orleans to Miami to Tacoma to Reno — and it dawned on her that she should help other families, baseball or otherwise, do the same.
The business was borne of frustration, too. Meyer Lucas found dealing with real estate agents who didn’t understand the quirky, volatile nature of the baseball calendar to be "exceptionally frustrating," so she solved that problem for Jupiter-area ballplayers by becoming the real estate agent.
"I realized how much time we all waste explaining our circumstances to realtors over and over when trying to find a home on the fly," Meyer Lucas said. "The conversation ends up being 10 minutes long when you explain why you need the short timeframes, the opt-outs, and what spring training even is to begin with. Cutting that entire conversation out eliminates a whole run around for these families, the players and their agents."
And so Meyer Lucas Real Estate began. Parlaying her life in baseball with an expertise in real estate has proven to be a successful endeavor. Last year, MLRE was a part of 54 transactions involving baseball clients, including working with almost every Marlin.
The baseball world accounts for 25 percent of her business, the other three-quarters, including most of the nearly $30 million in sales in 2017, coming from normal Palm Beach County residents. It’s the ballplayers, however, whose signed baseballs and jerseys adorn MLRE headquarters in a nondescript office building five minutes from Jupiter beach.
The client list runs deep: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Don Mattingly, J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, AJ Ramos, Nick Wittgren, Kyle Barraclough. And that’s just some of the Marlins, current and former. Among non-Miamians, there are Washington’s Max Scherzer, Houston’s Charlie Morton, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and retired big leaguer Rick Ankiel.
"It’s as simple as she understands," said Ryan Gleichowski, an agent with Sports One Athlete Management who represents Ramos, among others. When one of Gleichowski’s clients needs a place as far north as Port St. Lucie, where the Mets work out in the spring, and as far south as Miami, Meyer Lucas is his first call. That’s happened on double-digit occasions over about three years.
"There’s an element of trust" because she knows the baseball lifestyle, Gleichowski said. "Her having lived it, walked it gives me an extra level of comfort and protection when we can work with her."
Meyer Lucas’s workflow is an unusual one, as necessitated by the long distance between her and her clients. She usually works with a wife or agent or other personal advisor, not so much the player himself, and the lease is signed without the tenant ever seeing the place in person. That means lots of FaceTiming and photo emailing.
She has plenty of stories, too, but it’s all very hush-hush. Meyer Lucas and her point person for athlete relocation, Jackie Hanna, work under non-disclosure agreements. So she can tell you about that one time a player’s "super custom" bed from France went missing right before spring training, and about the frenzied mission to replace it before she and his agent had to let him know and stress him out, but she can’t say whose bed it was.
"That’s the reason they use me," Meyer Lucas said. "They can ask me for any kind of request, and it’s not going to show up on Instagram or Twitter."
The trust, which yields word-of-mouth references, is critical. It’s what allowed one player to leave Meyer Lucas a signed and dated — but otherwise blank — check for her to finish filling out, and another to bring her $20,000 in hundred dollar bills for her to convert to a cashier’s check to pay his whole spring training rent.
(Another player trusted Meyer Lucas to pick up the rare, souped-up sports car he had delivered to South Florida. She spent 15 minutes in the pouring rain figuring out how to open the handle-less door and another 15 minutes figuring out how to start it.)
Ballplayers, Meyer Lucas said, tend to have certain requests about where they live. One difficulty is finding a living space that works for a player’s bad-reputation dog breed and/or large pickup truck, both of which are common.
In often-pricey Palm Beach County, believe it or not, a lot of landlords aren’t enthused about either of those.
"I tell them this, straight up: Your career is going to be over in, max, 10, 15, maybe 20 years. Just wait. Don’t get the pit bull," Meyer Lucas said.
Another common question: How big is the master bedroom closet? Two kinds of baseball clients ask.
One is the unestablished minor leaguers — "Ed Lucas types," Meyer Lucas calls them, probably endearingly. A prospect, usually an early-round draft pick who landed a six- or seven-figure signing bonus, rents the house. Then a bunch of others pay that guy a cheap rent and cram in. Large closets become bedrooms.
Ed Lucas did that one year.
"He negotiated for the master bedroom closet," Meyer Lucas said. It was in a house run by Billy Butler, Lucas’s fellow 2004 Royals draftee. "(The closet) had a door. It was big. He was living like a king."
The other type of master bedroom closet enquirer is the ballplayer/wife with young children. On a baseball schedule, it’s normal to not put the baby down until midnight or later. That means he or she is sleeping, hopefully, until mid-to-late morning. Keeping a room completely dark is crucial, and a lot of times the master bedroom closet becomes that room.
"To an outsider, that sounds insane," Meyer Lucas said. "If I ask the landlord how big it is so they can keep their kid in there, they’re like, ‘That person is the worst mom ever.’ But it’s actually a very, very common thing."
Said former Marlins pitcher/father of two Tom Koehler: "It’s a very true statement."
Koehler, now a Dodger, is an MLRE client, first when he and his wife, Ashley, bought a home in Jupiter and now with the family locking down a temporary place to live near the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Arizona.
MLRE, which recently joined the national brokerage Compass, in the fall opened an office in Scottsdale, Ariz., serving the greater Phoenix area and the 15 major league teams who have spring training there. An Arizona location was always on the agenda — Meyer Lucas said she got questions about it all the time — but "I needed a wife that gets it and has the business acumen," Meyer Lucas said. She found her answer in Tiffany Mickolio, who is married to Kam Mickolio, an 11-year pro in the majors, the minors and Japan.
When Koehler or another player works with Meyer Lucas, they appreciate not having explain, say, why they need a place for only February and March. Or why they might need to leave an apartment if they get optioned to the minors, or designated for assignment or traded. There isn’t much job security in professional baseball.
Sometimes, Meyer Lucas works with landlords to write into a lease the player’s ability to opt out in the event he has to move.
"The fact that she has lived the lifestyle … makes it easier for her to communicate," Koehler said. "She knows how to handle movement, when somebody gets traded or optioned or things like that. She knows how to handle all those things, because she’s been through it."