Recently I had the pleasure to speak with Baltimore Orioles Infielder, Matt Antonelli. Matt is currently battling for the reserve spot on the Orioles roster. This spring Antonelli is currently batting .273 with six walks and only three strikeouts. He also has only one error in 68 innings. Matt’s best season came in 2007 when he hit .307 with 21 home runs, 78 rbi, and an impressive 28 stolen bases between Single-A and Double A.
With these impressive stats, Antonelli is well on his way to being on the opening day roster for the O’s.
Take a peak into his life with this exclusive interview.
Eric- Can you please introduce yourself?
Matt- Hi, I’m Matt Antonelli. I am from a city north of Boston and have lived there my entire life. I went to Wake Forest University for three years to play baseball. I was drafted in 2006 by the San Dixego Padres in the 1st round of the MLB draft. I made my Major League debut in 2008 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This will be my seventh year playing professional baseball. I played five years with the San Diego Padres, one season with the Washington Nationals, and am now with the Baltimore Orioles.
E- How did you get started in sports?
M- I’ve always played sports as far back as I can remember. My dad is a big sports fan and played a lot of sports as a kid, so I guess it just rubbed off on me. In high school I played four years of hockey, football, and baseball.
E- What was it like being drafted 17th overall in the 2006 draft?
M- Around my Junior year in high school I decided that I wanted to play in the Major Leagues. Being drafted was something I had been working very hard at for many years, so it was a great feeling knowing that I had accomplished one of my goals. The draft was really just the beginning though, as I continue to work hard to become an everyday Major League player.
E- In July 2007, you were named the best second base prospect in the minors by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and in November 2007, you were ranked as the #1 second base prospect and #27 overall in baseball, on a list polling 20 members of the scouting community on minorleaguebaseball.com. What did that mean to you and when you hear that, what do you about?
M- Well, it is always very exciting to be named to prospect lists while working through the minor leagues, but my goal has always been to be a Major League player. In the end, my goal was never to be a top prospect, but to continue to develop my skills to help a Major League team.
E- On September 1st, 2008, the Padres called you up and that same day you hit a single off the legendary Greg Maddux for your first hit in the major leagues. Then on September 15, you hit your first home run off Jason Hirsh. When you think about getting these things, what do you think about? Does it mean something extra that your first hit came in your first game off of a hall of fame pitcher?
M- Both of these events were very exciting for me. To reach my goal of becoming a Major League player and being able to get my first hit off of a pitcher like Greg Maddux was awesome. I will be sure to put that first hit ball on display for the rest of my life lol.
E- This past off-season you signed with the Baltimore Orioles. What made you decide to choose them over the other teams you were talking to?
M- The Orioles were one of the first teams to contact me about signing a free agent deal with them. After speaking with them on multiple occasions I felt I fit into the type of team they were trying to build. Through the entire process I was looking for a team that I would have the opportunity to go into Spring Training with and compete for a job. In the end that was the deciding factor.
E- What do you think you offer to a major league squad that someone else can’t?
M- My main ability offensively is the ability to get on base. I’ve always had a pretty good on base percentage throughout my career. Defensively I’ve started to play multiple positions and think I will continue to improve at them as I gain experience around the diamond.
E- What would you say was your most embarrassing moment as a pro? Really bad error,
M- No one play sticks out in my mind. It is never fun to make an error or strike out in a big situation but it happens to everyone so I don’t let those plays bother me.
E- What are some of your personal career highlights if you had to choose some?
M- The biggest highlights for me over my short career so far would first be getting drafted by the Padres. Winning a Double-A championship was my favorite moment in the minor leagues. Making my Major League debut was probably the biggest moment of my baseball career.
E- If you had to choose, what would you say was your best game in the pros?
M- My best game as a Major League player was probably against the Giants back in 2008 when I collected three hits in a game. My best game as a minor leaguer was a Single-A game when I collected 6 hits in a game.
E- What, if any, personal mementos do you have from your career? Jerseys, cleats, baseballs, bats?
M- I have been able to collect a lot of different things over the years. My favorite item is the ball I recorded my first hit with.
E- What player(s) did you admire most growing up? Who would you say that your game resembles, if you had to choose?
M- My favorite players growing up were Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. I grew up around Boston and was a short stop so, Nomar was an easy choice for me, and I’ve always loved to watch Manny Ramirez hit.
E- Do you have any superstitions? What are some of the weirdest superstitions you have seen during your career?
M- I personally don’t have any weird superstitions. I would say watching Nomar Garciaparra with all his superstitions would have to be the strangest lol.
E- Do you have any funny locker room stories? Pranks or just random stories from being
in a big league locker room?
M- While with the Padres I saw a lot of interesting things go on, but I probably shouldn’t talk about them here lol.
E- How about any fan stories?
M- My strangest fan story was probably when a guy took off his prosthetic leg and asked me to sign it for him.
E- Is being a big leaguer as luxurious as everyone imagines?
M- Being a Major League player offers you many things that being a minor league player doesn’t, that is for sure. With that being said, off the field, you probably would not realize any of my baseball friends were Major League players if they didn’t tell you.
E- Where is the weirdest place you were recognized?
M- I get recognized nowhere lol. While playing with the Padres I would go out to dinner after games with teammates right next to the stadium. There would be a replay of the game on all the TVs in the restaurant that we just played in and not one person every recognized any of us.
E- What is the most challenging/stressful part of this career?
M- The toughest part I would say is the travel, being away from home and from family and friends for 8 months out of the year. Also the grind of playing everyday for 8 months can be mentally tough at times.
E- What is the most rewarding/exciting part of this career?
M- Being able to play a game for your job is pretty awesome.
E- What is your ultimate goal as an athlete?
M- To be a consistent Major League player that helps my team win a World Series Championship.
E- What would be your words of wisdom to someone starting out in baseball?
M- Just to set your goals high and work as hard as you can to reach them.
E- Thanks so much for your time Matt. Anything else you would like to say before you
M- Thanks! And go O’s!
Now, check out what the O’s are getting with some of Matt’s favorite plays from the 2011 season.
With plays like these and stats that he is piling up, expect to see him on the big league roster on Friday, April 6th in the Orioles season and home opener.
See you at the ballpark Matt, and thank you so much for your time.
For more information on Matt, or to track what he is doing, please check out his blog: http://www.matthewantonelli.com/