Montero catching on with RiverDogs
By Bill Henley (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Monday, April 7, 2008
In 2004, Venezuelan teenager Jesus Montero cheered when Boston won the World Series. Since then, the population of Red Sox nation has decreased by one.
Montero's loyalty shifted in 2006 when the New York Yankees showed they had enough faith in his potential that they were willing to invest a $2 million signing bonus on a 16-year-old catcher with top-end hitting power.
"I liked Boston before. Now, I like the Yankees all the time." he said.
Montero will make his Charleston debut today at 7:05 p.m. when he and the rest of the RiverDogs play their home opener at Riley Park against the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Geographically and developmentally, Montero has come a long way in a short amount of time.
"When I saw him at spring training a year ago, I didn't think he could be a catcher. He has really turned a corner," RiverDogs manager Torre Tyson said.
Last season, Montero hit .280 with three homers and 19 RBIs while playing for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees. More importantly, he committed only one error in 33 games. His development, if not his confidence, took another step forward this spring when current Yankees backstop Jorge Posada took Montero under his wing.
"He helped me with catching, blocking, receiving — everything. It was more about the mental. He said to take it easy," Montero said.
With his 6-4, 225-pound frame, there has been some speculation that his body might be too large to handle the everyday rigors of the position and he could be moved to another spot. However, Tyson
said Montero's fastest path to the majors is as a catcher, and Montero said he's committed to playing there.
"I like the position. The little things are important. I want to stay there all my career," he said. "This year, I have to be better about everything. I worry a little more about catching. It's hard to call games some times.
"I have to learn more about calling games and my footwork."
Sharpening his defensive skills might be all that's required to earn a promotion through the organization. Montero's offensive abilities already have people excited. Baseball America rates him as the Yankees' sixth best prospect and the organization's best power hitter.
"The ball goes so far off the bat when he hits it," Tyson said. "The exciting thing is he doesn't chase breaking balls and that's one thing you don't usually see in a player at this level."
Montero said one of the more difficult parts about professional baseball is dealing with distance away from his home and family.
"I don't have family here and I miss them. It's a little hard for me, but I like it when they hear something good about me," he said. "I miss my family every day, but I'm here to play baseball and play with the Yankees. I just want to be better and better every day."
Reach Bill Henley at 937-5595 or at firstname.lastname@example.org