For now, Matt Antonelli has hopped off the roller-coaster ride that was the 2012 season and settled on familiar ground: the Route 1 baseball complex in Danvers where he worked out as a kid himself.
Antonelli, who turns 28 in April, struggled with injuries and illness while playing in the Orioles and Yankees systems. He appeared in just 44 games, and in July he was released by New York.
The Peabody native and St. John’s Prep star who was the Padres’ first pick (17th overall) out of Wake Forest University in 2006 will answer the call if a team chooses to sign him for next season. He tells of his marketing hook with the humor that typifies his blog at www.mattantonelli.com: His last three organizations (he was with the Nationals in 2011) all went to the postseason in 2012.
“I don’t know if I’m good luck or it’s good luck when a team has me and then gets rid of me,” he said with a laugh.
For now, he’s working out, giving lessons, and coaching at Route 1 SportsPlex, known as Strike One when Antonelli was a kid. He’d like to go into coaching — preferably at the college level — if his playing days are over.
“I’ve worked with different teams in the past,” Antonelli said. “My dad [Jack, an assistant baseball coach at St. John’s] has coached a lot and usually I’ll help out his team during the offseason. But this is the first time where I’m actually working with all the teams, ages 9 through 15 . . . so this is good practice for me, I guess.”
Antonelli was an outstanding three-sport athlete at St. John’s. He was named the 2003 Massachusetts Player of the Year in both football and hockey, and was the runner-up in baseball to another Peabody native, Jeff Allison.
He made his major league debut with the Padres in 2008, appearing in 21 games, and recording his first hit in his first at-bat, off future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. After that, he was sidetracked by injuries, but he rebounded and was named an International League All-Star when he hit .297 in 2011 with Washington’s Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y.
After signing a free-agent contract with the Orioles in November 2011, he played for Triple-A Norfolk. But when the O’s needed room on their roster in May, he was waived and claimed by the Yankees.
Living in various hotels — and out of his car — because the Yankees’ Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre affiliate was without a home while PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., was being rebuilt, he appeared in just 15 games before he was released. While he was hoping to catch on with another team, Antonelli developed an ailment that caused dizziness, fatigue, ringing in his ears, and nausea, causing him to lose about 10 pounds in three weeks. While most of the symptoms have subsided, he still has ringing in his ears.
“I guess I kind of try to learn something and take something out of it, even if it’s a really bad season,” Antonelli said. “But the thing I actually liked about last season was that moving from one organization to the other, you kind of get to learn some things. Sometimes when you’re in the same organization you kind of hear the same philosophy over and over again.
“In Baltimore I was around a lot of really good coaches, and then I went to the Yankees and learned a lot more stuff with those guys. So that’s the one good thing I think I took out of it, just meeting new players and new coaches and learning new stuff and making new friends.”
He got married recently and has a new home in Georgetown. While some athletes are reluctant to talk about a post-playing-days plan, he is not.
“I guess if it was something different, maybe if I was going into something like finance or something like that, maybe I wouldn’t think about it while I’m playing,” he said. “But really I guess while I’m coaching I’m still basically in the same area. . . .
“But, it’s good. I enjoy it. I enjoy being around all the kids and being around baseball.”