In 2013, his season ended with a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal. In August 2014, came the Montero/Baccala “ice cream sandwich” incident in Boise, Idaho. Once again Montero was suspended. It looked like his baseball career was finished. But somebody believed the young man was salvageable.
Suspension over, Montero was sent to Mariner’s Camp in Peoria AZ. The Mariners were giving him another chance. James Clifford, the team’s major-league performance specialist, began a strenuous physical and mental reset with Montero that lasted the entire winter. The following spring, Clifford said he was amazed at the effort and the transformation Montero had submitted to in rigorous daily assignments. In 2014, he had reported to spring training out of shapes at 275 pounds. A year later he stood before the media at a fit 230 pounds!
In March, Montero publicly offered his confession and apologies to the team, the fans, Butch Baccala, and his gratitude to the Mariners and to everyone involved in helping him in becoming a better person and a better player.
According to Seattle Times reporter, Ryan Divish, Montero gives credit for his transformation to his 10-month old daughter, Loren.”When she grows up, I want her to recognize me like that,” he said pointing to the photos of players framed on the walls in the room. “I want to be like those guys.”
There’s no guarantee Montero will become one of “those guys.” The rest of the story is yet to be told. But as the season began, Montero was assigned to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, where after playing in 84 games he was leading the Pacific Coast League in hits, runs and RBIs. In July, he was recalled by the Mariners, giving the young man another shot in the majors.
“It means a lot. It means hard work pays off,” Montero says. “It’s been really good. It’s been awesome. My wife and my family are really happy to be here, with all the work we did together. It was hard, but I’m happy to be here.”
So, “well done” to Jesus, but also to GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon, who decided three strikes did not have to be game over for a young man headed in the wrong direction.
I say, “Well done,” to all young men and women who not only believe they deserve another chance, but who do everything they can to take advantage of it when it comes. And finally, “well done” to the men and women who come alongside yesterday’s failure and offer them hope and a better life plan.
The last chapter for Jesus Montero is yet to be written. I’m the proverbial optimist. I hope his story turns out to be a good one. And I hope it is every bit as good for you or for the person in your life or organization you are thinking of right now.
Maybe you are the leader who will invest in them and give them that one last chance to “be like those guys.”