Flashback Friday – Toby Gardenhire 2002, 2003, 2004 Rochester Honker

Toby Gardenhire – Arkansas-Fort Smith
2002, 2003, 2004 Rochester Honkers
Selfie Photo of Toby and Wife Lindsay

What’s your favorite memory while playing for the Rochester Honkers?
TG: My favorite memory from my time playing with the Honkers came when we played in Brainerd in 2002.  The first day there my dad showed up and they made a big deal out of it.  Everyone cheered every time I came up to the plate and clapped when I made plays.  You would have thought I was playing for the home team.  The next night he came again, but he didn’t tell anyone and hid the whole game.  That night I was the beer batter and everyone booed me like crazy the whole night.

What's your favorite non playing memory from your time with the Rochester Honkers (Host Family, Experience, Bus Ride, etc.)
TG: My favorite non playing memory was definitely my host family.  Dean and Sue Rich and their kids were so good to me the entire time I was there.  They were truly like a second family.  They had to put up with me for three years and I don’t know how they did it.

Who was your favorite teammate when you played for the Rochester Honkers and why?
TG: I had so many great teammates when I was playing there that it would be impossible for me to narrow it down to just one.  I ran into guys playing college ball every year during the season and it was like we never left Rochester.  And I also ran into teammates when I was playing pro ball and we got to catch up on old stories.  Some of those guys are still playing now in the big leagues, which is really cool to see still to this day.

What has happened to you since you left Rochester and what are you doing now?
TG: I got drafted by the Twins and spent 7 years in the minor leagues after I left the Honkers.  I made it up to AAA and played there for two years before I took a coaching job.  I am now the head coach at the University of Wisconsin Stout.

What was your biggest realization while playing for the Rochester Honkers?
My biggest realization while playing for the Honkers was that I realized how much fun baseball can be.  The NWL is like playing pro ball.  When you are playing in front of thousands of people every night with all your friends, it doesn’t get much better.

Do you stay in contact with former teammates? If so, who?
Dusty Bensko was my roommate in pro ball when we got drafted in 2005.  He played with me for the Honkers in 2002.  He was in my wedding and I was in his.  He is one of my best friends in the world and I met him playing in Rochester.