Toby Gardenhire Becomes First Manager of AAA St. Paul Saints
ST. PAUL, MN -(January 19, 2021) – When the St. Paul Saints begin their first season as the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, the man at the helm will have a remarkably familiar last name to Minnesota baseball fans. The Twins announced that Toby Gardenhire, son of former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, will be at the helm for the Saints in 2021. The rest of the staff will include Hitting Coach Matt Borgschulte, Pitching Coaches Mike McCarthy and Cibney Bello, Infield Coach Tyler Smarslok, Certified Athletic Trainer Jason Kirkman, and Strength Coach Jacob Dean.
The 38-year-old Gardenhire was scheduled to manage the Twins Triple-A affiliate in Rochester last year, but never officially put on the uniform. He did, however, work with players at the alternate site at CHS Field. The 2021 season will be his first as a Triple-A manager. Gardenhire has spent two seasons as a manager in the Twins system, guiding the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels to a playoff berth in 2018 after winning the second half Western Division title. Overall, the Kernels went 77-62, fourth best record in the 16-team league. The Kernels swept their quarterfinal series, 2-0 over the Beloit Snappers (Oakland Athletics) before losing 2-0 to the Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals) in the semifinals.
The following year, Gardenhire was promoted to High-A Fort Myers where he was named the Florida State League Manager of the Year and once again earned a playoff berth. The Mighty Muscles won the first half title and finished 74-59, third best record in the 12-team Florida State League. The league, however, cancelled their playoffs due to Hurricane Dorian.
This is Gardenhire’s sixth season as a coach or manager in the Twins organization. He assisted the GCL Twins in 2016, began the 2017 season as the third base coach for the Red Wings before finishing the year as the hitting coach for the GCL Twins. Gardenhire began his coaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where he amassed an 81-117 record in five seasons (2012-16) and helped guide the Blue Devils to a 2014 WIAC tournament berth, their first in seven years.
Gardenhire has spent his entire professional career with the Twins organization. In addition to six seasons as a coach or manager, he played seven seasons in their Minor League system. He was originally drafted by the Twins in the 38th round in 2002 out of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, but did not sign. In 2005, he was selected in the 41st round by the Twins out of the University of Illinois. Gardenhire played at every level from the Rookie Appalachian League up through Triple-A. In 533 games he slashed .232/.292/.274 with 156 runs scored, 44 doubles, three triples, and six home runs.
The 30-year-old Borgschulte, who was scheduled to be the hitting coach in Rochester for 2020 and instead coached at the alternate site at CHS Field, begins his fourth season as a coach in the Twins organization. He began as a hitting coach with the GCL Twins in 2018 and worked with Gardenhire in 2019 as hitting coach of the Mighty Muscles. Prior to that, Borgschulte was a coach in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 2017 with High-A Palm Beach, eventually serving as their hitting coach over the final two months. Before joining the professional ranks, Borgschulte was a coach at his alma mater, Drury University (2014), then went on to Southeast Missouri State University (2015 & 2016), and Tusculum College (2015). He played two years at Drury and became the first All-American selection in the Panther programs seven-year history when he was named All-American Second Team as a senior in 2013. His 60 RBI and 125 total bases as a senior rank him third and tied for third, respectively, in single-season school history. His 20 home runs rank second in school history and he’s third with a .577 career slugging percentage. Borgschulte attended Western Kentucky University from 2010-11.
The Twins have assigned two pitching coaches to the Saints and they will collaborate and share duties on all things pitching development related. Both Mike McCarthy and Cibney Bello were scheduled to be the pitching coaches in Rochester last year and instead coached at the alternate site at CHS Field. The 33-year-old McCarthy began in the Twins organization in 2018 and spent two seasons as the Red Wings bullpen coach. The 2020 season was scheduled to be his first as pitching coach. McCarthy was a 14th round pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2011 out of Cal State University-Bakersfield. He spent six seasons in the Red Sox organization pitching at every level from Low-A through Triple-A. He went 28-27 with a 4.57 ERA and eight saves in 150 games (61 starts). In 496.0 innings he struck out 327 while opponents hit .275 against him. At CSU Bakersfield, he recorded a 1.62 ERA his senior season and tied for the DI regular season lead with 127.2 innings. McCarthy earned a Bachelor’s Degree in pre-med at CSU Bakersfield and got his MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2016. He is currently working on a second Master’s degree in Sport and Human Performance from American Military Institute. Following his playing career, and before he landed with the Twins, he worked in marketing for Lengthwise Brewing Company in Bakersfield. He is also a field coordinator for Baseball Miracles, a non-profit that aims to bring the game of baseball to deserving children in underserved communities around the world.
The 38-year-old Bello is no stranger to the Twins organization. The 2021 season is his sixth as a coach in the system. He’s been the pitching coach in the organization with the Rookie GCL Twins (2016-17), Single-A Cedar Rapids (2018), and Double-A Pensacola (2019). In 2019, Bello was moved up to the Major Leagues, spending the final month of the season with the Twins. His coaching career began in 2011 when he was a pitching coach intern for the Rookie AZL Mariners, working under former Major League pitcher Gary Wheelock. He impressed during his internship and became the pitching coach for the AZL Mariners from 2012-13 and then moved up to the Single-A Clinton LumberKings from 2014-15. The Mariners were familiar with Bellow having signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 2000 out of Venezuela. He pitched eight years for the Mariners organization, pitching in Venezuela from 2000-02 before pitching with the AZL Mariners in 2003. He reached High-A in both 2006 and 2007, his final season with the Mariners. Bello pitched in the Independent Can-Am and Golden Baseball Leagues from 2008-10.
The 28-year-old Smarslok will begin his professional career in 2021, although he was scheduled to be a coach with the GCL Twins in 2020. Despite this being his maiden voyage as a coach at the professional level, Smarslok has spent each year since he graduated from Kean University in 2015 as a collegiate coach. He’s served as an assistant coach for Marist, Seton Hall University, Heidelberg University, and Claremont-Mudd Scripps. He operated as the volunteer assistant at Seton Hall in 2019 where he was the infield coach, responsible for the players’ development and in-game alignment. Smarslok was a three-time DIII College World Series participant, an All-Conference, and National Rawlings Gold Glove recipient in his time at Kean University. He helped lead the Cougars to two NJAC Tournament Championships.
The 46-year-old Kirkman, who was scheduled to begin his inaugural season in the Twins organization last year with the Red Wings, brings a bevy of experience to the Saints. Prior to being hired in 2020 by the Twins, Kirkman was with the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and Nemours Children’s Health System. He brings 16-years of baseball experience as an athletic trainer. Kirkman began in the Phillies system at Low-A Batavia (2003), moved to Single-A Lakewood (2004-05), Double-A Reading (2007), Triple-A Lehigh Valley (2008-11), and High-A Clearwater (2012-13). From there, he landed with the Atlanta Braves and was the Athletic Trainer at the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Braves (2014). His final stop in the baseball world was with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He was with High-A Rancho Cucamonga (2015-16), where he was the California League Athletic Trainer of the Year in 2016. He spent 2017 at Double-A Tulsa and 2018 at Triple-A Oklahoma City. In addition to his time in baseball, Kirkman has professional hockey experience in the West Coast Hockey League with the Tacoma Sabercats (2000-2002) as the head athletic trainer. He got his start as an intern athletic trainer in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads (1998-2000). Kirkman earned his Bachelors of Science with an athletic training option from Boise State University in 2000 and Master of Health Science with an athletic training option from Nova Southeastern University in 2007.
The 28-year-old Dean begins his fourth season as a strength coach with the Twins organization after spending 2017-18 with the Mighty Muscles and 2019 with the Red Wings. He was scheduled to return to Rochester in 2020. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and studied Human Performance and Exercise Science at the University of Alabama, earning his Master’s Degree in December, 2016.
The Saints 2021 season is scheduled to begin in April. A schedule, and the league the Saints are playing in, will be available at a future date.
By Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints