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Matt Walbeck

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Matthew Lovick Walbeck

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[edit] Biographical Information

Matt Walbeck is a former righthanded Major League Baseball catcher who played from 1993 to 2003 for the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Anaheim Angels and Philadelphia Phillies. He attended Sacramento High School.

[edit] The Draft and Minors

Standing at 5'11" tall and weighing 190 pounds, Walbeck was taken by the Cubs 192nd overall (eighth round) by the Cubs in the 1987 draft. Walbeck is one of 12 players to have been drafted out of Sacramento High School and continued the trend of that high school having produced only negative WAR players. Although his professional career-started off very well-he hit .314 in 51 games in 1987-he would eventually level out and become an average hitter. He was not much of a power hitter, nor did he consistently hit for a high average. His best minor league season was perhaps 1992, when he hit .301 with seven home runs and 42 RBI. He did try stealing bases seven times that year, but was caught every single time.

[edit] The Major Leagues

He made his Major League debut on April 7, 1993 at the age of 23 against the Atlanta Braves. Although he flew out in his first at-bat against pitcher Steve Avery, he did end up producing "big time" in the game-he singled off of Steve Bedrosian, which drove home Sammy Sosa and tied the game, sending it to extra innings. Alas, the Cubs did not end up winning the game as Fred McGriff hit a two-run home run, helping the Braves win 5-4.

The rest of the trial-run that would be his rookie season would not be so successful-in fact, he hit only .200 in 30 at-bats that season. He did hit the first home run of his career that season, off of Jose DeLeon on April 18.

[edit] To the Twins

On November 24, 1993, the Cubs traded Walbeck (with Dave Stevens) to the Twins for pitcher Willie Banks.

Although his 1993 stats were fairly unimpressive, Walbeck was the catcher mostly used by the Twins in 1994 and 1995. In 338 at-bats with the Twins in 1994, he hit .204. He hit the first of two career-grand slams in 1994-it was a sixth inning blast off of Jesse Orosco and the Milwaukee Brewers on May 4. He also caught Scott Erickson's no-hitter in 1994. His average was much better in 1995, though-he hit .257 in 393 at-bats. He started off as the team's starter in 1996, but hit only .223 in 65 games and was replaced by Greg Myers as the starter.

[edit] Onto the Tigers, Part 1

On December 11, 1996, the Twins traded Walbeck to the Tigers for minor leaguer Brent Stentz. Although Raul Casanova was the starter for the most part, Walbeck did see a fair amount of playing time in 1997. In 47 games, he hit .277 with three home runs. He also spent 17 games in the minors, where he hit .305 in 59 at-bats.

[edit] Off to the Angels

On November 20, 1997, the Tigers traded Walbeck with Phil Nevin to the Angels for minor leaguer Nick Skuse.

Mostly used as the team's starter in 1998, Walbeck hit .257 with a career high six home runs (a total that would be matched in 2000).

He appeared in 107 games in 1999, but did even average three at-bats a game. Bengie Molina and even Steve Decker both played in a fairly large amount of games in 1999, perhaps causing Walbeck to appear in less and average fewer at-bats per game. Walbeck hit only .240 in 1999. He also hit the second grand slam of his career in '99-on June 5, he hit a "grand salami" in the fourth inning off of Chan Ho Park and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Walbeck's 2000 season would basically seal the fate for his career. In 47 games, he hit only .199 in 146 at-bats. He promptly lost his starting job to Molina, and after the season granted free-agency.

[edit] Back to the Minors

Walbeck-who was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and then purchased by the Phillies in June,2001-played a total of 107 games in the minors that season. He appeared in only one game for the Phillies in 2001, as a pinch hitter for pitcher Vicente Padilla. He singled off a pitcher Antonio Alfonseca, but that did not help the Phillies in the end-they lost the game against the Florida Marlins, 8-3.

After 2001, he was granted free agency and signed by the San Diego Padres. Before he could appear in a single regular season game with the Padres, though, he was traded back to one of his former teams-the Tigers, on March 22, 2002. He was sent with Damian Jackson for Javier Cardona and minor leaguer Rich Gomez.

He played in 27 games for the Tigers in 2002, batting .235 in 85 at-bats. He spent 21 games in the minors that year, hitting only .213. After the season, he was granted free agency from the Tigers, only to be resigned by them before the 2003 season.

[edit] Finale

2003 was Walbeck's final season. In 138 games for the Tigers, he hit a career-low .174 (although he did hit .417 in four games in the minors that year). He played his final game against one of his former teams-the Twins-on September 28, 2003. He replaced A.J. Hinch as a defensive substitution in that game. On September 23 of that year, he had appeared in his final at-bat-he struck out. His final hit came on August 8 off of pitcher Kenny Rogers of the Twins-this hit would also end up being the final home run of his career (it was a two run dinger).

Overall, he hit .233 with 28 home runs and 208 RBI in his 11 year career. He stole 13 bases and was caught 12 times. In 2109 at-bats (682 games), he walked 133 times and struck out 343 times. Statistically, he is most related to Jorge Fabregas. He spent five professional seasons with Matt Franco-longer than any other teammate.

[edit] His Post-Playing Days

In 2004, he became the manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Detroit Tigers A-level affiliate in the Midwest League, a position he held until 2006. In both 2004 and 2006, the White Caps were league champions.

In 2007 Walbeck was promoted to become the manager of the Erie SeaWolves, AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. With Walbeck at the helm, the SeaWolves improved from near the bottom of the Eastern League (last place in 2006) to make their first playoff appearance since 2004. Walbeck was named the EL Manager of the Year.

In 2008 Walbeck was the 3rd base coach for the Texas Rangers but was fired at the end of the year. He returned to minor league managing in 2009 with the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League. After winning manager of the year for the fourth time in six years in 2010, the Pirates fired Walbeck [1].

Walbeck began 2011 as manager of the Rome Braves, but after a 28-56 start, the Braves fired Walbeck due to "philisophical differences". [2] [3]

At last check, he lived Fair Oaks, CA.

[edit] Year-by-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
2004 West Michigan Whitecaps Midwest League 69-70 5th/1st Detroit Tigers League Champs
2005 West Michigan Whitecaps Midwest League 73-67 5th/2nd Detroit Tigers Lost second round
2006 West Michigan Whitecaps Midwest League 96-44 1st/1st Detroit Tigers League Champs
2007 Erie SeaWolves Eastern League 81-59 2nd Detroit Tigers Lost in 1st round
2009 Altoona Curve Eastern League 62-80 11th Pittsburgh Pirates
2010 Altoona Curve Eastern League 82-60 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates League Champs
2011 Rome Braves South Atlantic League 28-56 -- Atlanta Braves -- replaced by Rick Albert on July 7

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