Toby Gardenhire thought he would finally get his chance to play big league baseball this past season. As he watched numerous teammates at Triple-A Rochester get called up to the injury-plagued Minnesota Twins, Gardenhire figured his turn would be coming soon.
"There was a few times where I looked at it and said, 'I'm the guy, I'm the guy,' and it just never happened," Gardenhire said. "But I guess that's the life of a baseball player."
Now, Gardenhire's days as a baseball player are over as the son of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire follows in his dad's footsteps as a baseball coach. Toby Gardenhire, 29, was hired Tuesday as the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Stout baseball team.
Gardenhire spent seven seasons as an infielder in the Twins' minor league system, including the past two years in Rochester. He hit .247 in 2011 with 40 RBIs in 103 games. Minnesota didn't sign him back after the season, however, and no other teams showed much interest.
But Gardenhire wanted to stay in the sport he's been around since a kid. When UW-Stout coach Seth Maier resigned late last month, Gardenhire interviewed for the job.
Now, there will be two Gardenhires coaching baseball teams in the Upper Midwest.
"I've always said when I finished baseball, when I finished playing, I wanted to get into coaching," Toby Gardenhire said. "I always wanted to stay in the game. I've been around baseball my whole life, so I've always wanted to be able to stay in it after I get done. Now, luckily, I'll be able to stay in it and keep coaching. I'm pretty excited about that."
Ron Gardenhire has been the Twins' manager since 2002, winning five American League Central titles during his 10 years at the helm. Before he was manager, Gardenhire served as Minnesota's first and third base coach.
Needless to say, Toby Gardenhire has a good source if he needs coaching advice.
"I've already been picking his brain on some stuff," Toby Gardenhire said. "It's pretty good to have a guy like him who obviously knows what he's doing with everything. He's really happy for me. He's really, really excited. He knows that I've always wanted to get into coaching. It's just a really good opportunity."
Gardenhire will also be able to stay close to his family and the Twins as UW-Stout is just over an hour away from Minneapolis. Gardenhire is currently making the hour-long commute from Roseville, Minn., to Menomonie, Wis. So if his Blue Devils squad isn't playing, he'll be able to head over to Target Field to watch his dad's club in action.
"Being able to stay around the cities and being able to stay where my family is, my dad's there in Minneapolis and everything, that was a big part of it," Gardenhire said. "I'm pretty excited about it."
While Gardenhire is getting used to his new job this week, he's also busy preparing for another momentous occasion: his wedding. Gardenhire will marry fianc Lindsay Wlaschin this Saturday in the Twin Cities, just four days after starting his new job at UW-Stout.
"I've been trying to sneak away as much as I can so that I can come out here and start to get my baseball schedule and everything set up," Gardenhire said. "But it's been tough with the wedding."