Mike Montgomery hopes to become a Metz

PORT OF ST. LUCY, Florida – He began to believe in a curse. Then he confided in another destiny. Baseball has a way to play with emotions. Ask Mike Montgomery.

People still do it. They will always do it. There are worse things to know than saving Game 7 of the World Series, as Montgomery once did for the Cubs. That was long before he was in the camp with the Mets this spring, after a dizzying season that took him to the baseball hinterlands and made Chicago feel like a dream.

“I remember taking a car from a dealer there, like ‘Hey, please drive our car,’ and it was like a $ 100,000 Lexus,” Montgomery said over the wings at a sports bar here last week, recalling the 2016 trail. title. “I really had the feeling that I could almost drive lights, not have to follow the rules of the road, and if someone pulls me over and tells them who I am, they won’t care. They would say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Whatever you want, Mr. Montgomery! ”

He laughed and shook his head.

“I miss that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you want it. It fades over time, but I think the legacy will never go away over time. “

Montgomery has played in five of the seven World Series games against Cleveland, including a 4-game loss to Wrigley Field to the Cubs, three to one. During this game, linear driving tore Montgomery’s glove from his hand, something that had never happened before. It was disturbing, he thought, a sign that something was wrong.

Perhaps, Montgomery wondered, the little ones had indeed been cursed. Desperate that their season was pushed to the brink, he retired to his Wrigleyville apartment and played Xbox hockey for hours. When his hockey team fell behind 3-1 and came back to win 4-3, Montgomery had an insight – now he was sure the Cubs would do the same.

Stories like these and the pitch he threw to win the first Cubs championship in 1908 will fascinate fans forever. The moment is a touchstone, a precious accent for millions that will give Montgomery a small dose of eternal glory. Like a child star on a favorite TV show, his career peaked early in a way few have experienced.

When Montgomery drew this final against Cleveland’s Michael Martinez, he was only the eighth player to throw a gold court designated by the American Baseball Research Society as a field that could either win or lose the World Series. This is an extremely rare situation, possible only in game 7, on the road, at the end of the ninth inning or later, when the season can end – in one way or another – in one fell swoop.

Montgomery received the call in the 10th inning with two outs, runner first and Cubs ahead, 8-7. Cleveland had no players on the bench, and manager Joe Madden correctly suggested that the light Martinez could not handle Montgomery’s crooked ball. Of course, Martinez touched lightly on third baseman Chris Bryant, who slipped as he scored, but collected it cleanly. Anthony Rizzo caught Bryant’s throw at first base, Montgomery threw his glove in the air, and the celebration, which seemed impossible for a long time, was underway.

Imagine the rush of adrenaline from such a moment. Nothing else can compare.

“You can’t miss anything,” Montgomery said. “You can’t undo what you’ve been through. I can’t sit there and try to throw maximum speeds at coke, 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 in the Mets complex. He likes to see hope in players who are not yet exhausted from the game. Just that day, he said, a young teammate asked about Game 7 about Jason Hayward’s speech, which Cubbs gathered during a rain delay. Montgomery prefers not to live in the past, but is happy to share if asked. Old emotions cheer him up.

Even when Jacob de Grom is on the sidelines indefinitely and Max Scherzer is caring for an inflamed hamstring, Montgomery is probably heading to AAA Syracuse Class and a place in the rotation there. He had the same chance last year, but when the Mets cut him off from the Premier League camp, he demanded his release and signed with the Yankees, believing they would offer a better chance.

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

Looking back, Montgomery knows he had to stay with the Mets, who ended up using 19 different starting pitchers. And while he enjoyed South Korea with his wife, Stephanie, and their 2-year-old son, Max, the season was split, with a break for the Olympics, a brief coronavirus-related league shutdown – and a stop that wasn’t exactly what he liked. the judges.

“To put it this way, they didn’t help me, especially after I threw the rosin bag at the man,” Montgomery said. “But I didn’t even throw it at him for punches and balls. I threw it at him because he said I had a game delay, but apparently I didn’t. “

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

“As if sometimes it wasn’t even real, what we experienced in 2016 – like” This is the perfect setting; that’s not normal, “said Stephanie Montgomery. “But no matter how much you say to yourself, ‘This is amazing, appreciate every moment,’ when it starts to go in a different direction, it’s still a shock.”

The pair met indirectly through a pitcher Montgomery hopes to emulate: Jamie Moyer, a left-hander who has 218 victories since turning 32. Montgomery was a rookie for Seattle in 2015 when Moyer tweeted him. Stephanie liked Moyer’s post, Montgomery noticed, and the relationship grew from there.

Moyer’s tweet has a special resonance for Montgomery now: “Leftists usually mature later!” He wrote with the hashtag: #nevergiveuponalefty. The Mets have not given up on Montgomery and he is in no hurry to stop.

During the winter, Montgomery worked at a new Driveline training center in Phoenix to better understand his games. In Syracuse, he should take advantage of finally resuming his normal routine as a starter – not a swingman, as was the case with the Cubs. He will never be a powerful pitcher, but he may be able to find the old picture of his crooked ball, the terrain that brought joy to millions and will follow him for the rest of his life.

“I don’t have to be the best pitcher I’ve ever lived,” Montgomery said. “But I was in the best moment that might have happened in the history of baseball, and I’m just going to outlive everyone. This is the goal. Just stay healthy while I can and play until they give me a T-shirt.

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