Olson's father, Scott, pitched for Wake Forest and shepherded young Matt through his early years. "I complained about him dragging me off to the cages when I was 9 or 10 and wanted to stay home and play video games. But I'm thankful for it now," he said.
Olson pitched (righthanded) and hit (lefthanded) for Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia. Parkview is also known as Jeff Francoeur's alma mater. Matt graduated in 2012 with a commitment to Vanderbilt as a two-way player.
In 2012, Matt hit .407 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 37 games for Parkview High. His team was rated tops in the nation by Baseball America. He said that he got off to a poor start when he put too much pressure on himself to perform. Plus, he had already built quite a reputation in the area after hitting 13 home runs as a sophomore and 17 as a junior. So pitchers were less likely to give him much to hit.
In 2012, Olson got drafted by the A's (see Transactions below).
In 2013, Baseball America rated Olson as the 10th-best prospect in the A's organization. He was at #12 in the winter before 2014 spring training. But before 2015 spring camps opened, Matt was rated as the second-best prospect in the A's farm system, behind only INF Daniel Robertson.
He was at #6 in the spring of 2016 but dropped down to #17 in 2017.
Matt is willing to learn the insides of the game. "He's a really good attitude guy, good makeup,” Athletics farm director Keith Lieppman said. “He’s a good learner and has the right attitude to make the little adjustments that make for improvement. He has opened himself up to experimenting with things.”
And Olson said, "I think the most important thing I learned was understanding the game as far as day-to-day playing,” Olson said about his first full professional season in 2013. “You can only grasp it from being put into it.”
In 2015, Matt was chosen to represent the Athletics at the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game.
September 12, 2016: Olson made his big league debut at Kauffman Stadium in the bottom of the eighth inning at first base. He experienced his first big league plate appearance in the ninth, drawing a walk, as he had done 384 times in 586 Minor League games.
In 2017, Olson was named the Athletics' Prospect of the Year.
Dec 25, 2017: "Alonso was having a great year, was an All-Star for us, and it would have been easy to just let it carry through," A's executive Billy Beane said. "But part of the discipline was that we've got to find out about this kid Olson. We're going to hit ourselves if we get to the end of the year and we don't know where he's at.
"That was really as much inspiration for the trade as any, just making sure Matt had a lot of time to acclimate to the Major Leagues. I think it turned out pretty good. That's part of the discipline, trading an Alonso to give this kid a chance, and I think that'll happen over the course of the next couple of years."
Olson obliterated big league pitching during his condensed rookie campaign, and there's reason to believe he can keep it up in his sophomore season. He consistently hits the ball hard and has a knack for elevating it, a nice little recipe for lots of home runs. Now, it's unrealistic to think Olson's 2017 power surge can be replicated. For reference, Olson's numbers translate to roughly 65 home runs over the course of 162 games. Still, it's fun to think about.
"I'm not gonna sit here and say I'm gonna hit whatever pace that would be," Olson said near the end of the season. "That'd be just outrageous. But I know it's in there, and I have the capability of continuing to hit like I am now."
Olson, 23, slugged .651 with a .259 average and posted a 1.003 OPS, adding 22 walks for a .352 on-base percentage—which makes his usually high strikeout rate easier to tolerate.
The A's were a much better defensive club in the second half, and their corner fielders—Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman—largely contributed to this turnaround. So much attention was on Olson's bat that his top-notch defense was often overlooked. A 6-foot-5 frame helps, but Olson is also extremely mobile with good range and an equally good arm. He's as reliable as it gets over there. (J Lee - MLB.com - Dec 25, 2017)
March 26, 2018: Students at Oakland's Lincoln Elementary School were greeted with a surprise. Matt Olson and Chad Pinder had taken over their recess. Just two days before Opening Day at the Oakland Coliseum, the A's players participated in recess alongside the students, playing baseball and more.
Olson and Pinder, donning their A's jerseys, pitched to the elementary schoolers outside on the blacktop and shot some hoops with them, too. A's mascot Stomper, of course, was also on hand to join in the fun. Lincoln Elementary is one of two schools the A's have adopted as part of the Oakland Public Ed Fund's Adopt-A-School program. (Adler - mlb.com - 3/28/18)
On June 10, 2018, Matt got to help his team beat the Royals, 3-2, but it was going to be a great day for him regardless. That's because it also just so happened to be his mother's birthday.
To celebrate the occasion, Olson made some arrangements and got the Oakland Coliseum video board to send a special birthday message to his mom: "Happy 54th Birthday, Ma! Matt Olson" (Mearns - mlb.com)
June 16, 2019: Scott Olson not only coached sons Matt and Zack throughout their youth baseball days, he was also a bit of an innovator. Looking to go beyond the normal visits to the batting cages, the various local parks in Lilburn, Georgia often served as a playground for Scott as he often came up with out-of-the-box ideas to help his sons improve their game.
“He would take me and my brother up to the local park all the time,” Matt recalled. “I remember him taking a couple of trash cans from outside the field and put one laying open out towards the field and stack another one up on top of it. He’d hit us balls in the outfield and we’d try to throw the ball into the trash can at the plate. We’d do stuff like that all the time.”
Scott’s efforts paid off. He’s been able to watch Zack go on to play baseball at Harvard University, and Matt’s journey to the Major Leagues. The night of Sept. 12, 2016 will always hold a special place in Matt’s heart. It’s the night he made his big league debut, but making it even more memorable was his Dad making the trek to Kansas City to take it all in from the stands at Kauffman Stadium.
“I’m very grateful for the hours he put in both for me and my brother,” Matt said. “Drove us all over the Southeast and other parts of the U.S. to take us to games and support us. Very thankful.” (M Gallegos - MLB.com - June 16, 2019)
2019: Olson came into the season as the Athletics’ starting first baseman for the second year in a row, and had a career year despite missing 35 games with an early-season hand injury.
Olson played in 127 games and set career highs in multiple categories – home runs (36), RBIs (92), batting average (.267) and WAR (5.1). And he won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award. His consistency at first base has given the A’s a steady hand at a position they had to platoon for years prior.
His 2019 season started out rough when he was injured in Tokyo. Olson took a foul tip off the hand and missed 34 games after having a surgery described as a right hamate excision. When he returned, he missed only one game the rest of the season, and the A’s went 82-43. Although many said the power wouldn’t return right away after the surgery, Olson slugged his way to a team-high 36 home runs with 91 RBIs.
While providing power in the A’s lineup, Olson also matched his 2018 total with 14 defensive runs saved (in 53 fewer games) and had a .993 fielding percentage. (Justin Hickey - Fansided - Oct. 25, 2019)
2020 Media Day - Jan. Q&A:
Are audiobooks considered reading? Yeah, just a little less effort.
What matters most to you: launch angle, exit velocity, or spin rate? Probably exit velocity. If you hit it hard, you’re doing something right.
You get a free trip for this weekend: Tahoe, Napa, or Monterey? Never been to Tahoe. And I love Napa. But I’ll go Tahoe, I’ve got to see it. I’d prefer winter.
First animal you go see visiting the zoo? I’m actually a huge sea otter guy, not necessarily my first, but yeah, any sort of otter. I get pretty excited about otters.
Teammate that you’d be a fan of even if you weren’t their teammate: Marcus Semien.
Most important aspect of a good walk-up song? The beat. I’m a big rap guy, gotta have a good beat.
Something you need to get done every time in the on-deck circle? Pine tar. I’ve got to have some stick on the bat.
Best thing to tell a teammate after they made an error? Either don’t say anything, or, “Don’t worry about it.”
Teammate who hates giving interviews? Definitely Khris Davis.
Team pot-luck dinner, what does Matt Olson bring? Mac and cheese. You can’t mess that up. Literally any kind, you can’t mess it up.
Song that you know all the words to? Probably a Drake song . . . there’s at least several Drake songs.
2020 Season: Olson was the only Athletic to appear in all 60 games last season and batted .195 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI. He tied for 10th in the majors in RBI and seven of his 14 home runs gave the A's the lead, which tied for second most. The 26-year-old left-handed hitter led the A’s in home runs, RBI and total bases (89) and committed just one error for the second best fielding percentage by a first baseman in Athletics history (.998).
Olson is a .245 career hitter with 103 home runs and 262 RBI in 419 games over five seasons in the majors. He hit his 100th career home runs in his 399th game this past season to become the 11th player in Major League history to reach 100 home runs in fewer than 400 games. (MLB News - Dec. 2, 2020)
Offseason: Olson was deep into his offseason film study back home in Atlanta when he had finally seen enough. He was disgusted.
Coming off a career-worst season in 2020 when he hit .195 with 14 home runs, the A’s first baseman could not bear to watch another clip of his swing. Olson knew that wasn’t him in those clips. It was some other hitter whose busted approach was the result of an amalgamation of the many quick fixes that were attempted under the tight constraints of a shortened 60-game regular-season schedule.
“I had a really bad year, in my opinion,” Olson said. “I felt, in a way, it let the team down and we came up short of the World Series. You check yourself in the mirror after the season. I felt motivated to fix some stuff and wanted to come out strong.”
Olson grabbed his phone and reached out to A’s hitting coach Darren Bush. Together, they both identified the same issue. The path of his swing, one of the more unique-looking hacks in baseball, was off. Several little moving parts had to be fine-tuned, but one main correction was in his set-up at the plate, where he said he was “putting myself in a bad position” by leaving his bat head up too horizontal.
“There were definitely things wrong with the swing I was going out there with every day,” Olson said. “I got myself swinging around my body and rolling over stuff, not able to stay through the ball long enough. My timing had to be just perfect to hit one right.”
Through countless back-and-forth video messaging with Bush over the winter, Olson grinded daily to correct his flaws. The work he put in has shown in what remains on pace to be a career-best year on offense.
- July 2021: Olson was chosen as a reserve first baseman for the All-Star Game.
The A’s quickly identified Olson as a player they had to have ahead of the 2012 MLB Draft. That became apparent after their group of scouts watched him blast a homer off future first-round pick and Braves ace Max Fried as part of an overall impressive showing in the 2012 National High School Invitational (NHSI) baseball tournament.
Later that season, A’s assistant GM Billy Owens flew out to Georgia and witnessed Olson take another future first-round pick, Lucas Sims, deep in a game. In all, the A’s accumulated well over 75 at-bats on Olson that year, which, according to Owens, is an “inordinately high” number compared to other hitters the club usually scouts.
“Matt was a specimen,” Owens said. “6-foot-5 with soft hands, dexterity, mobility, agility and fabulous throwing arm. Obviously, the power was the featured attraction. He’s always hit massive tanks to every crevice of the yard. His swing showed pureness, quickness, loft and was aesthetically easy on the eyes.”
The A’s were sold. But there was just one issue.
Olson comes from a family where academics comes first. His mother, Lee, is a fifth-grade teacher in Lilburn, Ga. His older brother, Zachary, graduated from Harvard University. So when Matt signed a letter of intent to play at baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt University, it was widely assumed around baseball that he would be honoring that commitment. But from the constant looks the A’s scouting department was able to get of Olson, Matt Ranson, their area scout at the time, learned that Olson was keen on entering professional baseball. Then, Olson was up-front with them. If a team drafted him in the top two rounds, he was signing.
When the Draft rolled around, the A’s knew they were in a good position, as they held three top-50 selections. They picked Addison Russell 11th overall. Then came Daniel Robertson at No. 34. With Olson still around at their next pick, No. 47, the A’s took the 18-year-old first baseman and eventually got him to sign for just over $1 million.
“Matt Ranson did a good job knowing that Olson wanted to create his own path,” Owens said. “We definitely were invested in Oly.”
Olson’s strikeout rate has been cut down by nearly half from his 31.4% mark last season. The offseason adjustments are playing a role in this development. But there’s also a device, which A’s assistant hitting coach Eric Martins calls “the red machine,” that has helped Olson transform as a hitter.
The machine was first introduced by current Giants infielder Tommy La Stella, who brought one over from the Angels after he was traded to the A’s last August. After La Stella signed with San Francisco this offseason, Martins said Olson purchased his own and began to practice with it. The machine shoots out dimpled rubber balls at a low angle. Its purpose is to clean up a hitter’s bat path by the barrel on the baseball as his swing comes into the zone. For Olson, it helps kick bad habits for good ones.
Entering the break, Olson’s strikeout rate ranked in the 80th percentile among Major League hitters.
“Hitting off the red machine has gotten him more direct to the baseball,” Martins said. “Now he doesn’t feel like he has to cheat. He can touch everything. He’ll foul some pitches off to get to the next pitch. He’s had multiple eight- or nine-pitch at-bats this season, whereas, in the past, he’d be in a 1-2 count and chase a pitch out of the zone.
“Now, he’s so confident in his path that he can see the ball, he can track it, he can lay off some tough pitches or foul some pitches off until he gets a good pitch to hit. You can see the work he’s put in, and it’s come a long way.”
The A’s had visions of the two Matts—Chapman and Olson—one day carrying the franchise as pillars of the organization. All-Star selections are sort of an unofficial validation that a player has arrived to the elite level. After Chapman reached his first All-Star Game in 2019, Olson will now have a first of his own under his belt.
“There is definitely a sense of pride and fulfillment from our entire staff watching Oly every night in the green and gold,” Owens said.
Of course, none of this is surprising to Olson’s teammates. The .282/.371/.567 slash line. The 23 homers, 20 doubles and 59 RBIs. The superb defense at first that has already brought him two Gold Glove Awards. This all-around excellence on both sides of the ball has been evident to them since his arrival to the Majors in 2016.
“The dude is a monster,” A’s starter Sean Manaea said. “Every day, he just brings it. He’s been unbelievable since he got called up. It’s nice that people are starting to recognize that.” (M Gallegos - MLB.com - July 12, 2021)
July 16, 2021: Bennett Lloyd was hopeful for some sort of redemption after coming away empty-handed after his crazy fall on a missed attempt at catching a home run ball hit by Matt Olson during the Home Run Derby. A few days later, the A’s slugger delivered.
Lloyd, who went viral for his head-over-heels flip over a railing pursuing an Olson blast in the upper deck of Coors Field, was the recipient of a signed bat and ball for his troubles. Through the help of Twitter, the first baseman sent out a post asking for help in locating the fan who took a hard fall. Minutes later, the two connected.
“I saw him take that tumble, so it was pretty cool to do that,” Olson said. “My agency was helping me with social media stuff throughout that whole stuff, so they got in contact with him.” (M Gallegos - MLB.com - July 16, 2021)
2021 Season: Olson had the best season of his major league career, producing an excellent .271/.371/.540 batting line in his 673 plate appearances, hitting 39 homers and 35 doubles while driving in 111 runs. He was the only thing that slowed himself down this season, as he missed time when he struck himself in the face with a line drive that bounced off the pitcher screen in batting practice.
Not only did he cement his place in the middle of the Oakland A’s lineup, but he also made his first All Star Game and participated in the Home Run Derby. Olson may have been a star in the Bay Area, but he truly broke out for the rest of the country to take notice.
Sept. 2022: Olson chose to play for team USA in the 2023 WBC.
2022 Season: Olson’s numbers saw him end the year with a 120 wRC+, a 3.1 fWAR, and a .240/.325/.477 slash line.
His walk rate went down by 3% and his strikeout rate went up by 7.5%. Despite his defense remaining elite with 5 DRS and 2 outs above average (OAA), Olson simply wasn’t able to replicate the top-3 first baseman status that we all hoped he would.
The season doesn’t look so bleak when looking at these numbers in the broader context of his career, though. The Olson who played for the Braves in 2022 was more of a regression toward the mean that he had established in his career prior to 2021.
Still, Olson’s 2022 with the Braves was actually quite good.
His strikeout and walk rates were the second and third-best figures of his entire career, respectively. His 120 wRC+ was also the third-best figure of his career and still good enough for fifth among first basemen in the National League. His fWAR ranked the same as his wRC+ in both respects. When considering that his defense remained up to its elite standards, this was actually a successful season for Matt.
If not for a dismal first half of September for Olson, these numbers may have looked better. He fixed his swing with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and found immense success to end the season, putting together a 248 wRC+ after September 25, and a 261 wRC+ in the playoffs. Truly eye-popping figures.
It’s likely that the immense success of Freddie Freeman hampered some of the excitement around Olson. Freddie sacrificed some of his power to put together an MVP-like season with his 5th-best-in-baseball 7.1 fWAR and 157 wRC+.
Comparing Olson to Freeman may seem unfair to some, but with the 2021 that Olson had and the nature of the Braves’ relationship with Freeman, he was firmly placed into those kinds of conversations.
Regardless, 2022 was a season to remember for Matt Olson. With his clutch playoff performances and the impending ban of the shift, the Braves have to like what they saw from Olson going forward. And another year of getting acclimated in Atlanta should do him wonders. (Davis Tangeman - Oct. 26, 2022)
Olson was a former Parkview High School star in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Some athletes who’ve done it say the chance to play pro ball for a hometown team was a dream come true that turned out to be everything they hoped it would be. Plenty of others say the demands and outside pressure that go with playing in front of friends and family members can become a burden at times, especially if you’re struggling and just trying to focus without distractions.
“I think last year there was a lot on his plate,” Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. “This kid is rock-solid mentally and emotionally, but there’s absolutely no way that any human being could be able to handle the way a big leaguer needs to handle all the pressure that comes from No. 1, playing this game, being on a new team, at home, all the changes. … But he handled it as freakin’ spectacular as you could ever ask.”
Olson finished last season with a career-high 44 doubles, 34 homers and 103 RBIs. However, his .240 average, .325 on-base percentage, .802 OPS and 122 OPS+ were far below what he posted in those categories during his last two full seasons with Oakland, in 2019 and 2021.
To his credit, Olson — a soft-spoken guy who’s exceedingly polite and accommodating with media and others who ask for some of his time — never mentioned during the 2022 season any pressure of playing for a new team on such short notice, or replacing Freeman (though he was asked about it frequently), or being distracted or pulled in multiple directions playing at home, as any reason for some of the struggles he had at times.He and his wife, Nicole, bought a house in Atlanta in August 2021, three months before their marriage. They had no idea then that he might end up playing for the Braves; the couple just wanted to be back in the Atlanta area, where both are from. Now here they were in mid-March, traded to Atlanta, and within 24 hours of the deal, Olson agreed to an eight-year, $168 million contract with the Braves.
“There’s just those little things, even figuring out how you’re going to come to the game, or where you’re going to be, or am I going to go see my parents for the off day?” said Olson, whose mother and father still live in the house where they raised him in Lilburn, Georgia. “It’s little things that we got into a groove with, and now you know what to expect. It’s very relaxing.”
That includes knowing what roads to take and avoid on his way to and from Truist Park.(O'Brien - Mar 29, 2023 - The Athletic)
Who is Matt Olson's wife, Nicole Olson?
Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson married his longtime girlfiend Nicole Olson in November 2021.
She was born to Martin and Jackie Hiller Kidder at Johns Creek, Georgia, on June 18, 1995. Martin is the chief financial officer at Gain Servicing and Cherokee Funding in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nicole attended Johns Creek High School until 2013. She attended Globis Study Abroad in Verona, Italy, in 2015 to study global and international studies. Nicole studied at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, where she earned a BBA in 2017.
She worked as a CBRE advisory and transactional service intern while she was still at college. Olson is now employed with worldwide provider of commercial real estate services, Jones Lang LaSalle, as a retail tenant advisor/associate. (Aanchal Jaura - Modified Jun 21, 2023)
July 2023: Olson represented the Braves as a reserve at the All-Star Game.
During a series at Tampa Bay last weekend, Matt Olson was asked about the Braves’ hitting more home runs before the All-Star break than any team in major-league history. Major-league history is quite long. A lot of great teams have pounded a great many homers.
“It’s a cool stat to have as a team,” the first baseman said nonchalantly. “But you know, it doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day.”
That’s where these Braves are. Piling up record-threatening or record-smashing individual and team offensive stats is getting them a lot of attention around baseball and has made them the Las Vegas oddsmakers’ favorite to win the World Series. But the Braves, who won the whole thing in 2021 but were upset in the division-series round last postseason, know what midseason stats and win-loss records mean in the grand scheme of things. For a team with soaring aspirations, as Olson said, they don’t mean anything.
World Series or bust? Most of the Braves will stop short of saying that, knowing how hard it is to win 101 games like they did last season. But the truth is, all of the spectacular statistics and overwhelming offense they’re producing would quickly be forgotten if another NL team wins the pennant and plays in the World Series. That’s the harsh reality, when you raise the bar for performance and set expectations as high as this Braves squad. Olson hit a first-inning grand slam before the Braves had even made an out Friday in their first game back from the break.
Olson unloaded on a 1-0 inside fastball, driving it 430 feet to right-center for his 30th homer of the season and seventh career grand slam. In the past 11 games, Olson has hit .395 with 10 extra-base hits, including five homers and 16 RBIs.
“We were playing good ball there before the break and leading up to it, and sometimes when it’s going well you’re not sure if you want the days off,” said Olson, the first in franchise history with 30 homers in the team’s first 90 games. “But I think everybody, throughout the course of the season, you need that (rest) midway through. So it was good to come out and play the game we played today.
Olson leads the majors with 11 first-inning homers, and the Braves’ 95 first-inning runs are 15 more than any other MLB team has scored in any inning.
For Olson, the first-half homer binge made him the NL leader in homers and RBIs at the break, and now he’s on pace for 54 homers and 136 RBIs. That would break Andruw Jones’ franchise record of 51 homers set in 2005, when Jones led the majors in homers and the NL with 128 RBIs — the last Brave to lead the NL in either category during a full 162-game season. “I think that good stretch we had last year, is kind of like a good gauge for us as far as what we can do as a team (when) we are complete as we can be,” Olson said. “Like I said, we know who we are, we know the talent that we have in here and our potential. It’s not going to just be a perfect season the rest of the year, we’ll hit a speed bump at some point. But when you have the confidence in the guys in here, it’s easy to look past the little speed bumps and get back on track.” (O'Brien - Jul 14,2023 - The Athletic)
Matt Olson was an 11-year-old in the Atlanta suburbs in 2005 when Andruw Jones led the majors with 51 home runs, a Braves franchise record. Olson doesn’t remember specifics, just that Jones had some “huge homer years.” And yes, he recalled some of the mighty swings Jones took, the force of the follow-through sometimes bringing him to one knee. A more controlled swing has been a key to Olson’s dramatic improvement within this historic season for the first baseman, who tied Jones’ franchise record when he hit his 51st home run Tuesday September 12th. “It’s a cool feeling,” Olson said of the homer off another Atlanta native, Phillies ace Zack Wheeler. “Obviously watched (Jones) growing up and know the kind of player he was, so it’s cool to be mentioned with him.” (O'Brien - Sep 13, 2023 - The Athletic)
Nov 9, 2023: NL Silver Slugger Award Winner First Base: Matt Olson, Braves (first win).
Olson was typically the cleanup hitter in the Braves’ record-setting offense, and clean up he did. The Atlanta native topped the Majors in home runs and RBIs, while his .604 slugging percentage was the best in the National League. His 54 dingers and 139 RBIs were the most in Braves history. They were also the most by a primary first baseman in more than a decade. B Murphy - MLB.com - Nov 9, 2023)
2023 Season: Ever since Matt Olson was traded to the Braves, he has become a premier talent. He has played every signal game over the past two seasons to go along with exceptional on-field performance. In 2023, Olson hit 54 home runs while batting 283 with a slugging percentage of 604. If that wasn’t enough, Olson had a WAR of 7.4 and a respectable defensive showing. He has prospered from playing with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies over the past two years. This means fans may not have seen him hit his full potential as he enters his age-30 season. If Olson can repeat what he did in 2023 and 2024, the Braves will have a solid chance to win the World Series. (January 6, 2024 - Adrian Tritto)
June 2012: The A's chose Olson in the compensation portion of the first round of the draft, out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia. He signed with scout Matt Ranson for $1,079,700.
Dec. 5. 2020: Olson reached agreement on a $5 million guaranteed contract for the 2021 season, avoiding salary arbitration with the A's.
March 14, 2022: The A's received OF Cristian Pache, C Shea Langeliers, SP Ryan Cusick and SP Joey Estes from the Braves; in exchange for first baseman Matt Olson.
March 15, 2022: The Braves signed Matt to an 8-year, $168 million contract with a club option for 2030 at $20 million.