The Minnesota Twins picked 13th overall in the 2019 Major League Baseball amateur draft. After going the high school route with that selection, they turned to a familiar name with the 39th overall pick. After being named the 2016 East Metro Player of the Year Matt Wallner was taken by Minnesota in the 32nd round. Opting to go to school at Southern Miss, things came full circle earlier this week.Wallner is a Forest Lake, MN native and lit up the Metro prep scene prior to putting on a big blast barrage in Conference USA. Now headed to the organization he grew up watching, it’s time to learn a bit more about the Twins draft pick.
Twins Daily: Being a local product and having been drafted by the Twins previously, what's it like to have this process come full circle and start a pro career with the organization you likely grew up watching?
Matt Wallner: It’s a dream come true, watching the Twins in some of their “glory days” with Gardy, Santana, Hunter, Mauer and Morneau was a huge part of my childhood. I touched this dream a little bit with the opportunity in high school in the 32nd round but knew I wasn’t going to sign. However, this time is the real deal, a dream come true and can’t wait to get started with the Twins Organization.
TD: After being drafted in 2016 you decided to go to school. With three really good years at Southern Miss what do you feel like most developed about your game?
MW: I feel like I just matured as a person, I learned what it takes to compete against the best players in the country. Southern Miss has provided me with some of the greatest coaches and players in the country to learn from. They are the true reason for the success I am fortunate enough to have and have this opportunity with the Twins today.
TD: Leaving school as one of Conference USA's most accomplished hitters what can you tell us about your approach at the plate? Obviously, you possess plenty of power, but what else is there?
MW: I’m trying to get a pitch up that I can drive, when I’m at my best I feel as if I can handle almost any pitch. But at the same time, I want to be patient with the approach and get the best pitch to drive during the at bat. I’m always looking to drive the ball to the center of the field and have my hands react pull or opposite field. This certainly helps me stay on pitches and tap into my power.
TD: You have experience facing fellow Twins draftee Matt Canterino. What can you say about him on the mound and as a competitor?
MW: I was fortunate enough to play with Canterino briefly at Team USA and the rest of the summer with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League. So, I know him well, but I certainly have faced him far too many times for my liking. He is the guy on the opposing team that you always circle, and everyone is paying attention to. He is a fierce competitor and me and him have had some good battles over the years - we’ll leave it at that!
TD: Is your power production something that you focus on or more a result of the way you attack the baseball? Given the analytical age we're in and the ability to fine tune your results, have you focused on launch angles and utilized any of the technology available?
MW: I really have not focused on that - I’m just trying to drive the ball and if I miss up - I miss up and hopefully the ball will carry out of the park.
TD: You have pitched previously and pushed a fastball into the upper 90's. Has there been any thought as to whether you'd be getting on a pro mound as well?
MW: I do not believe that will be in my repertoire to at least start my pro career. I have always loved to hit and focusing solely on that is my hope.
TD: Thinking back over the course of your entire career has there been any single player you've emulated, looked up to, or modeled your game after?
MW: I haven’t necessarily modeled my game after him but someone I have always seen comparisons in is Justin Morneau. He is a big power hitting lefty like myself and I hope to follow somewhat in his footsteps moving forward.
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