The fork in the road of a person's life typically does not come with such a clear opportunity as was presented to Toby Gardenhire.
After hitting .247 for the Twins' Class AAA affiliate in Rochester a season ago, Gardenhire -- son of Twins manager Ron -- was told by the organization that he would not be brought back in 2012.
Gardenhire, who will turn 30 in September, had a choice: Try to catch on with another team or try to move on. Then the head baseball coach job at Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie opened up. Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, a Menomonie resident, recommended him for the job, he went for it, and on Jan. 17 the job officially became his.
Four days later, Gardenhire married longtime girlfriend Lindsay Wlaschin.
And just like that, playing professional baseball -- which carried the price of the nomadic lifestyle of a minor player -- transitioned into Gardenhire's other dream of coaching. With it came the chance to live year-round with his new wife in their Roseville home, from which he makes a one-hour commute to Menomonie.
"It was a little tough because I thought there were a couple of times last year when I honestly thought I had a good chance of being called up," said Gardenhire, who never made it to the majors. "But you can't play forever. When I got this opportunity, I kind of jumped on it."
Said Ron Gardenhire: "He's really pumped about this new opportunity. And [wife] Carol and I are excited."
Gardenhire's coaching debut will come at 9:45 Monday night against Hamline. And in a nice bit of serendipity, it will come at the Metrodome, where his dad spent nearly two decades as the third base coach and then manager before the Twins moved to Target Field. Toby said he has tons of memories of running around on the Dome turf as a young boy.
Anyone who watches UW-Stout play will -- hopefully -- see a style reminiscent of the fundamental approach that helped the Twins be successful during the 2000s. Toby said father and son talk baseball all the time, and once it starts "we can go on forever."
"Being in the Twins organization the last seven years, you get a lot of things drilled into your brain. Pitching, defense, first-pitch strikes," he said. "And I think that's the right way to go about it. I tell the guys we're going to do things the same way I learned in the Twins organization."
That said, Ron is known for his, um, rather quick fuse. Will Toby take all the elements of his dad's style with him onto the field Monday night?
"He is not the personality off the field at all -- not the type of guy you would imagine going up and yelling in an umpire's face all day long," Toby said with a laugh. "But he gets on the field, and things are different in the middle of a baseball game. So I can't really tell you what I'm going to be like."