Posted at 8:02 PM on April 2, 2008
by David Zingler
At the beginning of every season, I try to make a point to chat with some of the newest members of the Twins. I went to the Dome tonight thinking I would talk to Adam Everett. But, after batting practice, the shortstop was nowhere to be found. I soon noticed rookie infielder Matt Tolbert hanging out by his locker. The engaging 25-year-old Mississippi native was more than happy to discuss his baptism into the major leagues.
DAVID ZINGLER: I imagine last night was the start of a dream come true - you got your first major league at-bat.
TOLBERT: Yeah, all your life you want to get to the big leagues. Once you get an at-bat, you can officially say you were a big league player. It was very exciting. It's an incredible feeling walking up to the plate and knowing you are actually there and getting a chance to do something not a lot of people can say they got to do.
DZ: Did you call anyone when the game was over?
TOLBERT: Yeah - of course. My parents, first of all and then my friends and stuff - everyone was excited and wanted to hear about it even though I didn't get a hit, I hit it hard (and) had a good at-bat. That's all you can do.
DZ: Are the jitters gone a little bit?
TOLBERT: I am sure you'll always have that up here.
DZ: When did you officially find out you were going to be on the Opening Day roster?
TOLBERT: Two days before (the season started) Gardy came up to me in batting practice at Bradenton against the Pirates and told me he was going to take me with him and that I'd made the team. I still wasn't - until I got on that plane and it was off the ground - I still was kind of holding my breath. I had that seat belt buckled - I've seen a lot of stuff happen - they don't mean for it to - anything can happen. I've seen that over the years.
DZ: What goes through your mind as the cut-down comes up, do you just stay focused on what you are doing?
TOLBERT: That's all you can do. You work hard and if they like what they see and they think you have a chance...I was hoping to make it through that first cut and make some more meal money. You don't get paid on the minor league side, but you get paid on the big league side, so I was excited about that. Before you know it, I was one of the last couple of guys and thought I might have a shot. It's been very exciting.
DZ: You had your break out year minor leagues last year, were you disappointed not to get called up in September?
TOLBERT: It's just up to them. Whatever they want to do. I had a good year, but that's OK. I am here (now)...and hopefully I can help the team get some wins.
DZ: Now you are here, but you are on the bench. You played everyday in the minor leagues, how do you get through the games?
TOLBERT: You just stay into the game. You act like you are playing even though you are on the bench. (You think), what would you do if you were in these situations? Anything can happen at any given time. If somebody goes with an injury, you have to jump right in there. You have to be focused.
DZ: You have a day game tomorrow, a lot of times the bench guys get a shot in day games, are you hoping...
TOLBERT: I am playing today.
DZ: Really? At second base? (Everett's #12 had been listed under "SS" on the stadium scoreboard, but he was a late scratch due to a family matter.)
TOLBERT: At shortstop.
TOLBERT: My family is coming in town today.
DZ: Awesome! Good luck tonight.
I played against Tolbert in High School. I played at Parklane Academy in McComb. That guy hit some of the hardest balls I've ever seen. He could switch hit and he could fly. He was also an incredible running back. Glad to see he made it to the Bigs.