Bulldogs, Lady Techster programs excel on and off the field
Montoyo will be inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday morning after experiencing unprecedented success as a Diamond ’Dog in the 1980s before going on to enjoy nearly 20 years in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
His ability to hit with power was shocking to most at first. But the stocky middle infielder made a habit of producing jaw-dropping moments in each of his three seasons donning the red and blue for legendary head coach Pat “Gravy” Patterson and the Bulldogs.
When he arrived at Louisiana Tech, he was described as a “likeable youngster with a fine attitude” by Patterson. When he left, he was hailed as “one of the finest infielders Tech’s ever had.”
And that he was.
In 1984, Montoyo played one season at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, after coming from his home country of Puerto Rico. In 1985, he began his journey to the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame.
“That was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” Montoyo said of choosing LA Tech. “I came to the States for the first time the year before and I had to go to De Anza so I could take English as a second language. There was a kid there that went to Tech before me and he told my sponsor I should visit. From the first time I met Coach Patterson, he made an impact on me. I transferred that fall and the rest is history.”
The language barrier, however, was a different story. Montoyo recalls his teammates saying they were fixin’ to go do something, which brought on confusion for the infielder.
“It’s funny because when you are learning English and you go from California to Louisiana; I didn’t know as much as I thought I did,” he chuckled. “But all my friends, my teammates, they helped me out with school and everything. It was just a great group of guys.”
Montoyo experienced immediate success on the diamond with a .339 average, six home runs and 29 RBI’s (four game-winning RBI’s) in his first season. He made just four errors in 172 chances at second base and was hailed as one-half of possibly the best middle infield combination to ever step foot on J.C. Love Field with Jeff “Whitey” Richardson holding down the fort at shortstop.
As a junior, Montoyo continued his ascent in the LA Tech record books by leading the Bulldogs in batting average (.383), home runs (16), walks (56) and runs scored (65). He earned the George Kell Award as the top hitter in the Southland Conference and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 26th round following the season, but chose to stick around for his senior year because of one man.
“[Coach Patterson] was the main reason I decided to play there and the main reason I decided to stay for my senior year. I got drafted after my junior year, but I wanted to stay as long as I could because I loved it there so much. So I stuck around for another year and I have no regrets about it.”
And he shouldn’t, seeing as he hit over .400 his senior season, slugged 16 more long balls to become the Bulldogs’ newest home run king at the time, and led Louisiana Tech to its second Southland Conference title and NCAA Regional appearance in as many years.
But even with his unmatched numbers in three years, it seemed opponents never got the memo about not putting anything in Montoyo’s wheelhouse.
“That was bad coaching,” he said with a laugh. “After a while, you think, ‘why are they pitching to you?’ I don’t know but I’m glad they did.”
Weighing 165 pounds soaking wet, it was the idea that Montoyo was a home run threat that was mind-boggling to spectators. He hit 38 home runs in three years, posted a .380 career average at the plate, but it was the amount of walks Montoyo racked up that shows just how impressive the hits were when pitchers would actually keep it in the strike zone. He led the Bulldogs in walks in each of his three years on the diamond.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “The funny thing about it is that one of the records was for walks. Believe me, we had a good team. If they didn’t pitch to me, they had to pitch to the guy behind me, which one year, it was David Segui. So they either had to pitch to me or him. I wasn’t the guy that just hit home runs though. I walked too. I’ll take my walks if they don’t want to pitch to me.”
One of Montoyo’s favorite at bats came on April 16, 1987 at J.C. Love Field when the second baseman stepped in the box in the 10th inning of a 4-4 ball game against LSU and crushed a ball over the wall in left field. He was mobbed at home plate and the crowd of 2,375 rushed the field. It was a memorable moment in a season where there were plenty of them.
“That was probably one of the best games I ever played,” he said of the walk-off win over the Tigers. “It was so crowded. I’m pretty sure the whole university was there.”
As for what was potentially the longest home run ever hit in Ruston, Montoyo doesn’t get into specifics. But he does remember it well. It was against Ouachita Baptist in 1986.
“I remember hitting it and I knew it was gone. I would stand there a little bit and watch it. I wouldn’t ever do that in the pros because they’ll hit me, but I saw that one clearly because I remember looking at it longer than I should have. Then I remember O.K. Davis writing about it.”
Following the 1987 season, Montoyo was once again drafted by the Brewers, this time in the sixth round, and he signed a professional contract, one that led to a nearly 30 year career in Major League Baseball. He was traded to the Expos in 1993 before jumping into coaching three years later.
Montoyo joined the Tampa Bay organization, the Devil Rays at the time, in October 1996, just over one year before they were recognized as an official MLB team. Almost 20 years later, Montoyo is the all-time winningest coach for the Durham Bulls in Triple A ball with 633 wins in eight seasons.
These days, Montoyo has been promoted to the big leagues and recently finished his first season as the third base coach for the Rays. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife, Samantha, and two sons, Tyson and Alexander.
For all the success Montoyo has enjoyed in his professional career, he considers his three years as a Bulldog irreplaceable.
“The whole Tech experience was a dream looking back at it now,” he said. When you are there, you’re just doing your thing. Looking back at it, I thank God I made the decision to come to Tech and I thank God for what they are doing for me now.”
It can’t be proven whether Montoyo hit the longest home run in the history of J.C. Love Field back in ’86. But the second baseman from Puerto Rico did lead LA Tech to two Southland Conference titles and two NCAA Regionals in the most successful era in Tech Baseball history. And he did it while he was putting together a Hall of Fame résumé.
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