A Twin and a Saint

Left-handed relief pitcher Caleb Thielbar Q&A’s with The Oracle.

Caleb Thielbar on the mound pitching for the Minnesota Twins on April 18, 2015.

Paul Patane, Senior Reporter

Major League pitcher and Minnesota native Caleb Thielbar is all too familiar with the Hamline Midway neighborhood after playing for the St. Paul Saints in 2011, and with Midway Stadium now closed, he took a few moments to share his personal story.

Thielbar pitched for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. Released by the Brewers, he went on to pitch for the Saints and eventually signed with the Minnesota Twins organization in Aug. 2011.

Making his Major League debut on May 20, 2013, Thielbar has pitched in over 100 games, logging 98.2 innings for the Twins. He’s currently on the Twins 40-man roster and has split time this season with the Twins and their AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. With the Twins, Thielbar has a career 5-3 record and a 2.74 ERA (earned run average).

The Oracle: What was it like for you growing up in Minnesota and then find out in 2009 that you were being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round?

Thielbar: It was a dream come true to get drafted into baseball, honestly. I guess the team didn’t really confer me that much. I tried to go into the organization and make it up to the big leagues. It didn’t really matter with what team, I guess. Obviously now with the Twins, it’s a lot more special. It was pretty cool to get drafted by an area team at least.

O: You weren’t with the Brewers organization for long, having played for the Helena Brewers, the Arizona League Brewers and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers over parts of two seasons. What was going through your head once the Brewers organization decided to let you go?

T: I think the main thing was just wondering if I would be able to get back into organized baseball. I didn’t think I was done yet, I was only 24. I thought I had quite a few years left in me. I just tried to hook onto any team possible, and I ended up getting signed by the Saints. And that was a really good experience as far as trying to get back into organized ball because they didn’t have a lot of guys signed. And I guess I was lucky enough to get signed back into an organization and make the most of it.

O: You played 43 games for the Saints and had a 2.54 ERA with them. You were playing independent league, but you were also playing back in your home state. What was that like for you?

T: It was nice. The nice thing about it was I could live at home because we weren’t making hardly any money, so I didn’t really have many options other than that. A lot of people got to come see me play, so that was really fun when you’re playing in front of the hometown fans, I guess, more than anything. Friends and family getting to come and see you whenever they want to is a pretty cool thing, too.

O: Hamline shared Midway Field with the Saints, but that closed earlier this year and now both programs share CHS Field in Lowertown. Thinking back to your time with the Saints in 2011, do you have a fond or bizarre memory from when you played at Midway? Like maybe a prank you played on a teammate or something like that?

T: Not really anything like that. I think, just the atmosphere there was awesome. The day when they had the big fireworks game on July Fourth, and Memorial Day when they had people sitting on the warning track all the way around the field because there were too many people to fit in the stands. That was kind of a once in a lifetime thing to see. You’re just not going to get that anywhere else in organized baseball but St. Paul somehow managed to pull it off. It was pretty fun.

O: Later in 2011, you signed with the Twins organization. You started at Fort Myers with the Miracle and quickly got to the Rochester Red Wings in 2012. What was it like being back with a Major League organization and finding success with your new club?

T: It was just nice to get signed back with a team really. In independent ball, everyone is just trying to somehow get back in it at various levels. There’s a lot of older guys, a lot of younger guys. I guess we get a lot of older guys in those organizations who have been with organizations for a long time and are just trying to get back in; and a lot of younger guys who haven’t been in an organization yet and are trying to get their foot in the door. Just being one of the guys who was lucky enough to get signed by a team was awesome. And being able to carry over some of the success that I had with St. Paul into the organization was good too, so I was able to move along quickly and it was a really fun ride. I met a lot of good people and had a lot of good coaching along the way.

O: In 2013, you got called up to the Twins and pitched in 49 games. You finished with a 1.76 ERA and propelled yourself into spending the entire 2014 season with the team. In 2014, you pitched in 54 games. What was it like going from Midway to downtown Minneapolis at Target Field and getting that taste of success with the big league club and being in that atmosphere and locker room on a daily basis?

T: It was obviously different. A little bit different stadium, a little bit different sized crowd. But it’s still the same game and you just try to keep that in mind the whole time when you go out there. You’ve got to realize it’s not going to last forever, too. So you’ve got to enjoy it while you’re there. It’s just a lot of fun having been able to be teammates with guys I’ve watched on TV for a lot of years. And play against guys I watched on TV for a lot of years, too. It’s just a cool experience and hopefully I’ll be back up there again soon and be able to contribute to the Twins again and hopefully we’ll be in the playoffs at some point.