Mike Montgomery hopes to enter the Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – He began to believe in the curse. Then he believed in a different destiny. Baseball is kind of playing with emotions. Ask Mike Montgomery.

People are still working. They always will. There are worse things to be known for than saving the 7th game of the World Series, as Montgomery once did for the Cubs. That was long before he found himself in lower league camp with the Mets this spring, after a dizzying season that took him to the baseball hinterland and made Chicago feel like a dream.

“I remember getting a car from a dealership there, like, ‘Hey, please, drive our car,’ and it was like a $ 100,000 Lexus,” Montgomery said over the wing at a sports bar last week, recalling the aftermath. 2016. title. “I really felt like I could cross the traffic light without having to follow the rules of the road, and if someone stopped me and said who I was, they wouldn’t care. They would say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. Whatever you want, Mr. Montgomery! ”

He laughed and shook his head.

“I really miss that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you want it. It disappears over time, but I think the legacy, as time goes on, will never disappear. ”

Montgomery played in five of seven World Series games against Cleveland, including a 4-game defeat at Wrigley Field that knocked down the Cubs, three games to one. During that game, Montgomery tore a glove from his hand, which had never happened before. It was disturbing, he thought, a sign that something was wrong.

Maybe, Montgomery wondered, the cubs were really damned. Desperate to have their season pushed to the sidelines, he retired to his Wrigleyville apartment and played hockey on the Xbox for hours. When his hockey team fell behind, 3-1, and returned to victory, 4-3, Montgomery had insight – the Cubs would, he was now sure, do the same.

Stories like these, and the pitch he threw to win the first Cubs championship since 1908, will delight fans forever. The moment is the cornerstone, a cherished highlight for millions that will give Montgomery a small dose of lasting glory. Like the child star of a favorite television show, his career peaked early in a way few have experienced.

When Montgomery drew that final, against Michael Martinez of Cleveland, he became only the eighth player to throw the golden court, which was defined by the American Baseball Research Society as a court that can either win or lose the World Series. This is an extremely rare situation, possible only in the 7th game, away, at the end of the ninth shift or later, when the season could end – in one way or another – in one go.

Montgomery got a call in the 10th inning, with two cars, the runner in first place and the Cubs ahead, 8-7. Cleveland had no players on the bench, and manager Joe Maddon correctly guessed that Martinez could not stand Montgomery’s wrong ball. Sure, Martinez barely hit third baseman Chris Bryant, who slipped as he threw the ball in, but collected it cleanly. Anthony Rizzo caught Bryant’s throw at first base, Montgomery lifted the glove into the air, and a celebration that seemed impossible for a long time was ongoing.

Imagine a rush of adrenaline at a time like this. Nothing else can compare.

“You can’t help but see something,” Montgomery said. “You can’t undo what you’ve been through. I can’t sit there and try to reach the maximum speed in the columns, because you just can’t get the same intensity even in a regular season game compared to the World Series. “

At 32, Montgomery is one of the oldest players on the promising side of the Mets complex. He likes to see hope in players who are not yet exhausted by the game. Just the other day, he said, a young teammate asked about Game 7, about a speech by Jason Heyward who gathered the Cubs during a rain delay. Montgomery would rather not live in the past, but would gladly share it if asked. Old emotions empower him.

Even when Jacob deGrom is on the sidelines indefinitely and Max Scherzer nurtures a sore tendon, Montgomery is likely to go to the AAA Syracuse class and place in rotation there. He had the same chance last year, but when the Mets kicked him out of the Premier League camp, he asked for his release and signed with the Yankees, believing he would offer them a better chance.

The lower league season started late, and the morning sessions in Moosico, Pennsylvania, for the Scranton / Wilkes-Barre RailRiders did not boost Montgomery’s competitiveness. After four starts, he signed a contract with Samsung Lions in Daegu, South Korea, for a proportional contract of a maximum of $ 1 million.

Looking back, Montgomery knows he should have stayed with the Mets, who ended up using 19 different starting pitchers. And while he enjoyed South Korea with his wife Stephanie and their two-year-old son Max, the season was unrelated, with a break for the Olympics, a brief league closure due to the coronavirus – and a suspension that wasn’t exactly successful. bring him to the judges.

“That being said, they didn’t help me, especially after I threw a bag of rosin at the guy,” Montgomery said. “But I didn’t even throw it at him for punches and balls. I threw it at him because he said I was late in the game, and I obviously wasn’t. “

It was a lost season – on two continents, Montgomery made 15 starts and had 3-7 with an average run of 5.90 – and a painful lesson about how fast the game can leave a player behind. The Mets were the only team to offer Montgomery a job this spring.

“When it was like sometimes it wasn’t even real, what we went through in 2016 – like,‘ This is the perfect setting; this is not normal ‘, said Stephanie Montgomery. “But no matter how much you say to yourself, ‘This is amazing, appreciate every moment,’ when it goes the other way, it’s still a shock.”

The pair met, indirectly, through a pitcher Montgomery hopes to emulate: Jamie Moyer, a left-hander who had 218 wins after turning 32. Montgomery was a newcomer to Seattle in 2015 when Moyer tweeted him. Stephanie liked Moyer’s announcement, Montgomery remarked, and the connection grew from there.

Moyer’s tweet now has a special echo for Montgomery: “left-handed people usually mature later!” he wrote, with the hashtag: #nevergiveuponalefty. The Mets haven’t given up on Montgomery, and he’s in no hurry to stop.

Over the winter, Montgomery worked at the new Driveline Training Center in Phoenix to better understand his terrain. In Syracuse, he should benefit from finally continuing his normal routine as a starter – not as a swingman, as he was for the Cubs. He will never be a powerful pitcher, but he may find an old picture on his crooked ball, a field that has brought joy to millions and will follow him for the rest of his life.

“I don’t have to be the best pitcher ever,” Montgomery said. “But I was at the best moment that probably ever existed in the history of baseball, and I will simply survive everything. That is the goal. Just stay as healthy as I can and play until they give me the jersey anymore. ”

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