MINNEAPOLIS -- Having received tickets to Saturday's game against the Red Sox from Twins CFO Kip Elliott, Forest Lake High School right-hander Matt Wallner was walking into Target Field when his phone rang.
It was Twins scout Mark Wilson calling to inform him that he had been picked by his hometown team with the No. 963 overall pick in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Elliott, who is the father of Wallner's friend, Carter, rushed over to congratulate Wallner and introduced him to several Twins executives before the game.
"I felt pretty fortunate and pretty blessed," Wallner said. "We got tickets from Kip Elliott, because I'm buddies with his kid. He gave tickets to me and two friends, and as we were walking up, I was on the phone with Mark, and Kip waved me down. So I went up to the Twins' offices to meet some of the guys, so that was really cool."
Wallner, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, was a dominant two-way player for Forest Lake, excelling on the mound and with his powerful bat. He has a fastball that sits in the 88-91 mph range, while also possessing a curveball in the 76-80 mph range and a changeup in the 80-82 mph range. He helped Forest Lake to a runner-up finish in the section 7AAAA baseball championship, losing to Blaine on Wednesday. He threw a complete game on Monday, with 16 strikeouts and one walk to help his team to the title game.
"It went really well," Wallner said of his season. "I couldn't have asked for much better from a team's standpoint. It was fun to make a jump on a personal level and as a team."
But Wallner was thrown a curveball early in the season, when he had committed to the University of North Dakota, only to find out it was dropping the program. He had to scramble to choose a new school, and after looking at several universities such as the University of Minnesota and Creighton, he decided to commit to Southern Miss.
Congrats to FLHS Senior Matt Wallner on being selected by the @Twins in the MLB draft. #rangerpride
"[The University of North Dakota] dropped baseball, and I found that out right before our first game," Wallner said. "It was pretty weird. It was quite a bit of jumping around, seeing three schools in a week one time. It was pretty hectic."
Wallner will now have to decide whether to attend Southern Miss, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier's alma mater, or whether to sign with his favorite team growing up. Wallner said he's not quite ready to make that decision yet.
"I just found out here," Wallner said. "So I'll have to go over some things and talk about it with my family."