Reusse: Born into baseball, lefty Thielbar works way to Twins roster

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2013 - 6:51 PM
hide

Rochester Red Wings pitcher Caleb Thielbar in June.

Photo: Mike Janes, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

RANDOLPH, MINN. - Caleb Thielbar and his parents, Calvin and Janet, lettered in the same sport for the Randolph Rockets. We're not talking about a sport divided by gender, such as basketball. We're talking baseball.

"I don't imagine that has happened too often in Minnesota," Janet said.

She graduated from Randolph High in 1976 as Janet Johnston. She came from a farm family and was turned into a baseball player by two older brothers.

"They were throwing baseballs to me, and I was swinging an old broken bat at age 2, I'm told," Janet said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to play Little League in Randolph as a girl, and that hurt my hitting."

There were two junior boys out for baseball in 1975, so Janet joined in. They all sat on the bench behind nine seniors that spring. And then as a senior, Janet was the Rockets' starting shortstop.

"I had a good arm, and at a little under 5-foot-4, I drew a lot of walks," she said.

Calvin Thielbar was the assistant baseball coach at Randolph in 1976. Eight years later, Calvin and Janet were married, and Calvin's three daughters from a first marriage lived with them. Caleb arrived as the little brother in January 1987.

Caleb and his neighborhood buddy P.J. McIntee killed much grass in two-man ballgames in the Thielbar's sprawling backyard. "We were out there every day in the summer," Caleb said.

The 6-foot Thielbar spent more time shooting a basketball. "If you had asked me when he was in the eighth grade, I would've said Caleb would play basketball in college," Janet said. "He was a very good shooter and a tremendous leaper."

Caleb wound up as the No. 2 career scorer for the Rockets. He broke the school record for three-pointers held by his cousin, Kevin Lee. He broke the school record for free-throw percentage held by his cousin, Wade Murray.

Thielbar graduated in 2005 and headed to Brookings, S.D., to pitch for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Why there?

"That was the only Division I school that wanted me," Thielbar said.

He pitched the full four seasons for the Jackrabbits. The Brewers took him in the 18th round of the 2009 draft.

He was 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA for the Brewers' rookie team in Arizona. The professional career hit a roadblock when he arrived in Appleton, Wis., the next season to pitch in the low-A Midwest League.

"The Brewers didn't like my slider, and I didn't like throwing a changeup," Thielbar said. "I was a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and curve, and my velocity was down to 84-85, from 88 to 90."

Sore left arm? "No, I'm a max-effort pitcher, and my mechanics were messed up," he said. "It was a bad year. I wasn't surprised to get the call."

That would be the call from the Brewers in midwinter telling Thielbar that he had been released.

Thielbar lives in Randolph with his parents and his black Lab, Cliff. He was going to name him Johan, in honor of his pitching hero Mr. Santana, but decided a one-syllable call was needed for hunting purposes. So the high-energy Lab was named in honor of another lefty, Cliff Lee.

The hometown location figured in Thielbar's decision to sign with the St. Paul Saints rather than other independent teams that made offers for 2011. "I signed with the Saints because it was a 40-minute drive to the ballpark," he said.

In mid-August, after 43 appearances and 62 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings, Thielbar became the first-ever Saints player to be signed by the Twins. He went through three levels of the Twins organization in 2012 -- from Class A Fort Myers to Class AA New Britain to Class AAA Rochester -- and now is on the 40-player big-league roster in advance of spring training.

Thielbar turns 26 on Jan. 31 and ... well, you never know where a team might land with a lefty specialist in the bullpen.

To prepare for his first test with big-leaguers in Fort Myers, Thielbar has had regular 6 a.m. throwing sessions with Keith Meyers. Caleb pitched a couple of summers for the Randolph Railcats and knew Meyers as a townball legend for Cannon Falls.

"I'm feeling good about my pitches," Thielbar said, "except the changeup. That's never been my favorite pitch, but I know I have to work on it."

Face it, Caleb: If Johan Santana is your hero, you need a changeup.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 FINAL
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
UAB 59 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC A&T 58 FINAL
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
UCLA 80
FIU 30 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC A&T 67 FINAL
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
BYU 65 FINAL
St Marys-CA 64
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close