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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Matt Walbeck showed he could play and he did so over 11 major league seasons

Originally published Aug. 6, 2013
Matt Walbeck knew his time in the majors might be limited in May 1998. He was filling in for another injured catcher, but he was playing well.

So, when the question came up on what would happen when the other player Todd Greene's health returned, Walbeck knew what was going to happen, according to The Los Angeles Times.

"I'm in no position to . . . moan and haven't been for some time," Walbeck told The Times. "When Todd comes back, he'll be the catcher. But I'm sure I'll have a place on the team. Certainly, I've showed I can play."

Walbeck showed he can play. And he continued to play. That year ended up being his second major league season with more than 100 games played.

Walbeck ultimately showed he could play in a total of 11 major league seasons and he has since shown he count translate his efforts to the minor league manager's office.

As a manager in the minors, Walbeck has taken his teams to multiple championships, winning multiple awards for himself.

Walbeck's playing career began in 1987, taken by the Cubs in the seventh round of the draft out of Sacramento High School in California.

With the Cubs, Walbeck started at rookie Wytheville, hitting .314 over 54 games. He moved to single-A Charleston for 1988 and single-A Peoria for 1989.

Walbeck didn't make high-A until 1991 at Winston-Salem, but then made AA Charlotte in 1992 and AAA Iowa in 1993. Also in 1993, Walbeck made his debut in the majors, 11 games in Chicago.

For 1994, the Cubs sent Walbeck to the Twins in a three-player deal. The result was Walbeck making Minnesota for 97 games that year, hitting .204. In April, he ended up catching a no-hitter, as Scott Erickson went the distance.

"He was strong, he was sharp, he was awesome," Walbeck told The Associated Press afterward of Erickson. "He was in a self-confident rhythm."

Walbeck returned to the Twins for another 115 games in 1995 and 63 in 1996. After 47 games with the Tigers in 1997, Walbeck arrived with the Angels for back-to-back 100-plus game seasons.

In May 1998, Walbeck went through a stretch where he had trouble throwing runners out. He told The Times he had to not make things complicated.

"You have to try easier," Walbeck told The Times. "You have to catch it and throw it. You can't try to throw guys out, you have to try to make good throws. It just takes one good throw to snap out of it. Then you get your confidence back."

Walbeck ended up playing in four more seasons after that, playing his final two seasons back with the Tigers.

By 2004, Walbeck had started his new career, as a minor league manager at single-A with the West Michigan White Caps. He also took the team to the league championship.

Walbeck stayed with West Michigan for two more seasons, winning the championship again in 2006. He moved to AA Erie for 2007 and, in 2008, spent a season as third base coach in Texas.

He returned to the minors in 2009 with the Pirates at AA Altoona, winning another championship and a Manager of the Year honor. But the Pirates fired him after the season ended. His most recent managerial stint was in 2011, at single-A Rome, but was let go before the season was out.

Walbeck has since returned to Sacramento, heading up his own baseball academy, Walbeck Baseball Academy.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,211
Made the Majors:1,160-36.1%
Never Made Majors:2,051-63.9%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 481
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

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