A chat with former catcher Matt Walbeck

 

catcher Matt Walbeck (courtesy of the Minnesota Twins)

Matthew Lovick Walbeck was born on October 2, 1969 in Sacramento, California and grew up playing a variety of sports but baseball was his passion. Walbeck was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 8th round of the 1987 amateur free agent draft out of Sacramento High School as a catcher and signed his first pro contract just a few days later fulfilling a lifetime dream to play professional baseball. Matt worked his way up the Cubs minor league ladder playing and ended up making the Cubs big league club out of spring training in 1993 as the teams 3rd catcher. Walbeck stayed with the Cubs for about a month before being sent down to AAA Iowa where he spent most of 1993 before being called up to the big club again in September.

In November of 1993 Walbeck was traded by the Cubs to the Minnesota Twins along with pitcher Dave Stevens for the Twins 1987 first round pick (3rd overall) pitcher Willie Banks. Walbeck was the Twins primary catcher in the Twins strike shortened 1994 season but the highlight of Matt’s big league career occurred on April 27th at the Metrodome when Matt caught Scott Erickson’s no-hitter, a 6-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1995 Walbeck played in a career high of 115 games and hit for a .257 average. In spring training of 1996 Matt had a sore wrist and a couple of days before the season started, Walbeck was diagnosed with a broken Hamate bone and had to undergo surgery. The recovery from the surgery was slower than expected and Walbeck did not play his first game in 1996 until June 18th. Former Oakland A’s catcher and Minnesota native Terry Steinbach signed with the Twins as a free agent in December of 1996 and just a few days later Walbeck was traded to the Detroit Tigers for minor league pitcher Brian Stentz. Stentz as it turned out never appeared in a big league ball game. Walbeck ended his Twins career having played in Minnesota for 3 years. During his time in Minnesota, Walbeck better known for his catching skills then his bat, caught in 275 games and had 1,008 plate appearances in which he hit 8 home runs, knocked in 103, stole 7 bases and posted a .230 batting average.

Walbeck played for the Detroit Tigers in 1997 before being traded to the Anaheim Angels where he played from 1998-2000. Walbeck then played in the minors for the Reds and the Phillies getting only one big league at bat with the Phillies in 2001 before finishing his career in Detroit in 2002-2003 at the age of 33 and 11 years of big league baseball.

Immediately after ending his playing career, Matt move into a manager role in the Tigers system in 2004 and managed their A ball team to two championships between 2004 and 2006. Walbeck then moved up to manage in AA ball where he again took the team to the playoffs and was rewarded by getting the 3rd base coaching job for the Texas Rangers and manager Ron Washington in 2008. Walbeck was let go after one season and returned to managing in the Pirates system in 2009 and by 2010 he had led his team to yet another championship season and was named manager of the year in the Eastern League but was let go by the Pirates. In 2011 Walbeck took over as manager for the A ball Rome Braves in the Atlanta organization but the team played poorly and Walbeck was fired mid season for philosophical differences.

Matt Walbeck today

Since then, Matt has started the Walbeck Baseball Academy in Sacramento, California where he gets to work with youngsters and their parents teaching some life skills and baseball while spending time at home with his wife and 3 children. I think that Matt is enjoying his life at home right now but who knows what the future may hold for this former catcher and proven minor league winning manager if another big league opportunity should present itself. In his free time, Matt enjoys coaching his son’s baseball team, exercising and doing some fly fishing.

Want to know how and why Matt became a switch-hitter? You can listen to Matt tell you by clicking here. Be sure to check out our other interviews with former Twins players by going to the Interview Archives page, there are 36 different interviews you can check out.

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