Offseason Q&A: Matt Antonelli

Hi, everyone, and Happy Holidays to all.  Hope everyone’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and/or whatever else were filled with joy, glee, and TV shows other than Baseball Wives.  The second edition of our Offseason Q&A has us catching up with one of Syracuse’s two All-Stars from last year, infielder Matt Antonelli.  Matt enjoyed an excellent 2011, and his offseason’s been a memorable one for a number of reasons.  He’s a new member of the Baltimore Orioles on the field, and off of it…well, read ahead and find out for yourself.

I chatted with Matt via phone from his new Massachusetts home on Monday.  Here’s what he had to say.

Kevin: Congratulations on your signing with the Orioles.  What went into that decision?

Matt: I spoke with a decent amount of teams but probably four were really interested in signing me and were the best fit.  I started talking with Baltimore and narrowed it down to two between the Orioles and Indians.  I thought they’d both give me a good chance to go to spring training and make the big-league team.  The situation was the same, but what swayed me was that Cleveland wanted me to be more of a utility guy, and Baltimore’s giving me more of a chance to play either second or third base.  They seemed to really want me and need a guy that can do what I’m able to do.

K: You’re on the 40-man roster, as well – I imagine that helped the decision.

M: Yeah, that helped, too.  Cleveland was probably gonna do the same thing.  But just from being with the Nationals last year, I know it’s tough to get called up if you’re not on the 40-man.

K: You say you’re going to play mainly second and third with Baltimore, but you played all over the field with the Chiefs.  Do you wish you had focused more on those two positions?

M: No, I enjoyed playing all over the place.  Basically, I just thought that with Baltimore, they’re moving Mark Reynolds over to first, and Chris Davis to third – I think I fit in a little better at Baltimore with my main two positions.  Cleveland was looking for me to play everywhere.  But my two main positions are taken by young guys – Jason Kipnis at second and Lonnie Chisenhall at third.  My chances of getting to play there were pretty difficult at Cleveland.  I probably would have ended up playing more left field and shortstop.

K: What have you learned about the Orioles?

M: I didn’t know a ton.  I flew up to Baltimore and got to speak with Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter.  They’re a good organization.  They’re not happy with the way things have gone down there recently, but after talking to those guys they’re going to start making good moves and rebuilding the farm system.  The next few years are going to be a lot better than the last few years.  I’ve jumped around now from Washington to Baltimore and I’m hoping I can stay here for a few years.  I’m looking forward to being a part of it as they rebuild this thing and start contending.

K: How do you feel about last year now that you have a chance to reflect on it?

M:  Going into last year, my main goal was to go some place that was going to let me play and get a lot of at-bats.  I knew it was going to be in the minor leagues since I missed the entire season prior to that.  There weren’t a lot of teams that were going to give me a chance to play.  Teams hadn’t seen me play, they kinda forgot about me.  The Nationals gave me a chance to play.  Also, I played a bunch of positions, and coming up with the Padres I only played second base.  Most teams this offseason were only interested in me as a utility player or third baseman – if I didn’t play for the Nationals, it would have been a limited number of teams that wanted me. I was pretty bad at shortstop, though.

K: Well, you had to follow one of the best defensive shortstops we’ve seen in Chris McConnell.

M: I know.  I hadn’t played shortstop since high school, then they sent McConnell to Double-A and I said “oh boy.”  I must have made six errors in the first few games, but the Nationals said “hey, keep going out there.”

K: Overall, it had to increase your attractiveness to Baltimore, though.

M: For sure. When Steve Lombardozzi came up I was basically a third baseman, and they liked me as a third baseman.  If I didn’t play third base, they might not have even been interested.  And if I go to camp and somebody gets injured, now I can go to left field or second base.  It gives me more chances to bounce around.  If I hadn’t played all over, I’d automatically go to Triple-A if I couldn’t play second base.

K: What else have you done in the offseason?

M: Oh, I got engaged!  That happened about a month ago, so that’s good.  I’ve been busy helping out with camps and clinics around November.  We have a bunch of indoor baseball facilities, and I’m working give days a week doing all that stuff.  I also moved so I had to pack up all my stuff and move to a new house, so that was a pain.  All I do now is watch football every day and play fantasy football – I live a pretty boring life, as you can see.

K: We’ll get to the football in a second, but tell me about the engagement.

M: I took a little weekend vacation down to New York City, went to Central Park, and got this little boat you can go on and paddle yourself around the water.  I asked my girlfriend there and she seemed pretty happy.

K: You were in a Chiefs fantasy football league.  How’d that end up?

M: Well, listen to this – I came in first in the regular season, I basically beat up everybody.  But this is what happens to me every year, I’m like Peyton Manning before he won that big Super Bowl – every year he was the best quarterback but hadn’t won the big game.  I’m not there yet.  Every year I get to playoffs in first or second and get knocked out, and this year I lost in the semifinals.  Done, see ya.  Every year.  But you can put in there that Jason didn’t make the playoffs.  I told him at the draft he was going to have an ugly season, and he did.

K: Was his team really that bad?

M: Well, it wasn’t that bad.  I think he was in fifth or sixth.  But he still didn’t make the playoffs.  Michael Aubrey won the league – he finished the regular season in fourth, but he had a very good team.

——–

If you have any former Chiefs you’d like to see us chat with, let us know at jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com or kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin

2 Comments

Matt-

Congratulations on your Major League contract. I hope you get a full share of at-bats and innings in the field, so that you can prove yourself and with time get the big contract that would set you, your fiancee (and future kids?) up for life.

We Nats fans in the DC area thank you for your work last year in Syracuse, and hope that in spite of playing for our “natural rivals” that you will always have a soft spot for the team in DC.

+1/2St.

Congrats to Matt & Laura! This is going to be a great year for you!

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