Coming into the 2012 MLB season, the Baltimore Orioles have uncertainties in many areas around the diamond, including who will play 2nd base if Brian Roberts is incapable of doing so on a regular basis. Yes, there are those who have jumped onto the Robert Andino bandwagon, but Dan Duquette went to the six year minor league free agent list a little over a month ago and signed middle infielder Matt Antonelli to a big league deal. This not only secures him an invite to Spring Training, but also a 40 man roster spot, which is highly valuable to any organization to give to a player.
I had a chance to catch up with Matt and find out a little bit about him and his background:
Matt Antonelli is a new name to the people of Baltimore. Tell us a little about yourself as a person and also about your baseball style and past.
I am from a city about fifteen minutes north of Boston, Massachusetts and have lived here my entire life. In high school I played baseball, hockey, and football. My biggest hobby is sports. I love every sport there is and in some ways have an unhealthy addiction to the NFL. I played baseball at Wake Forest University from 2004-2006. I was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2006 and made my Major League debut in 2008. In 2010 I signed a one year deal with the Washington Nationals and then signed with the Baltimore Orioles this past November.
How do you feel about the culture of losing that has manifested itself in Baltimore over the past decade and a half, and how were you able to overlook that when signing a contract with the Orioles?
I think the Orioles are a great baseball franchise and have established a great tradition throughout the years. I know that the last few seasons have not gone the way Orioles fans would have liked, but I think the organization is headed in the right direction. I am really excited about joining the Orioles and helping them build a successful team.
Explain a bit about the difficulty of living up to the hype as a (former) top prospect.
I don’t really think about the idea of being a former top prospect. Prospect really means that you have potential but haven’t had the opportunity to play at the Major League level yet. In the end I don’t want to be a prospect. I want to be a player that is contributing to a team at the Major League level.
Joining a new team, who do you think the main leaders in the O’s clubhouse are? Other than front office staff, have you been in touch with any of your new teammates or coaches at all?
I’m not sure exactly what the clubhouse is like for the Orioles because I haven’t had the chance to meet any players yet, but I do know that they have some very good veteran players throughout their organization. When I was in Baltimore a few weeks ago I was able to speak with Buck Showalter a little bit and will meet most of the players at Fan Fest which is coming up in a few weeks.
What’s your offseason been like?
My off-seaon basically consists of getting ready for the upcoming season. I don’t take much time off once the season ends. I was into working out and getting my body prepared for the season a few days after this season ended. I also spend a lot of time working with younger baseball players around the area, trying to improve their skills as well.
You seem to understand advanced baseball statistics pretty well; do you feel like this helps yourself when communicating/understanding GMs and analysts in MLB front offices?
I’m not sure if it helps as far as communicating in anyway. I don’t really need to speak very much to GMs and members of the front office. I just need to understand what type of player I am, what I need to continue to improve on, and what our manager asks of me when I get on the field.
Have you read Moneyball?
If so, what was your reaction when one of the things you do particularly well (walks) was so overtly praised and described as undervalued in the book? Do you think that walking received too much coverage in the book?
I have read Moneyball. Well, on base percentage was something that probably wasn’t stressed as much back ten or twenty years ago, but is definitely something that is looked at very closely in today’s game. The ultimate goal on offense is to score runs, and the only way to do that is to get on base. Whether that means getting a hit or walking, it really doesn’t matter. Also working the opposing pitcher by going deeper into the count is something that is stressed much more in todays game. I think the idea of OBP has more to do with just walks.
Any other words you’d like to convey to the fans in Baltimore:
I’m just really excited for the season to start and will do anything in my power to help in club be successful in the 2012 season.