For D-backs' Montero, passion is the key
Veteran catcher has faith results will come as long as the effort is there
Miguel Montero learned a lot of what he knows about Major League Baseball the hard way.
It's a long trip from his hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, to Phoenix.
But Montero is sure glad he made the trek.
For him, it all started in 2001, when the D-backs signed him as an international free agent. It wasn't until September 2006 when he got the call he'd been waiting for -- a call to the big leagues.
In 2007 and '08, Montero and Chris Snyder shared catching duties for Arizona. And in '09, an injury to Snyder gave Montero all the chance he needed. He became the Snakes' everyday catcher. Now, at 33, he's returning for his fifth season in the role.
Montero, whose career achievements include an All-Star selection in 2011 and a spot on the Venezuelan team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, developed into one of the best hitting catchers in the game prior to a tough season last year.
But his importance in the clubhouse is even more valuable to his batterymates, including the likes of Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, and the talk of prospect watchers everywhere, Archie Bradley.
"He's a good kid," Montero said of Bradley. "He handles himself pretty good on the mound. Obviously, he's got the talent. He's just got a pretty good mound presence. He seems like a bulldog and he's a good kid to have around in the clubhouse.
"He's up for whatever I tell him. He's up for learning, too. And so far, he's been trying to pick everybody's brain, and it's a good time to do it. Right now, you get to learn as much as possible. That way you can be an even better pitcher quicker."
Having someone like Montero around to teach him the ropes of pitching in the big leagues will prove invaluable to Bradley, and Montero relishes the chance to help teammates live up to their potential.
"When I came up, I pretty much had to do everything myself and learn on my own," Montero said. "Not everybody is just so friendly, especially talking about the catchers. They don't want to teach you too much because they're probably afraid they're going to come and take their job."
But that is not how Montero chooses to operate.
"I treat everybody the same," Montero said. "Probably people weren't so friendly to me back then, but I didn't really care. That way I learned from it. I'm not that guy when young kids come up to the big leagues. I try to be very responsible. I try to be useful for them to help them. I think that's the way that my dad taught me, to respect others and gain respect from others."
So what kind of advice would Montero give the prospects of his team?
"I just tell them: Be on time and just relax," he said. "Have fun and enjoy the game. Don't put that much pressure on your shoulders. It's the same baseball here as the Minor Leagues, so just relax. Obviously, stay kind of on the ground a little bit and when it's time to pitch or time to play, you're going to show up. Obviously, we know what you're capable of doing. Try to do more."
Pressure, Montero said, is relative, and he ought to know. He's facing a lot of it after an off year in 2013 raised significant doubts about his performance for the first time since he started playing every day.
"You know what, I don't try to put pressure on myself, either," Montero said. "I just try to go out there and have fun. Sometimes it's going to work out good and sometimes it's not going to work out as good as you want. It's part of the game; it's part of life. In outside, regular life, it's going to happen as well.
"So I try to enjoy it as much as possible when I'm on the field, and you just got to remember those times when you were a kid and you really loved the game and you played for fun. It's the same thing over here.
"If you're going to do something, make sure you do it with passion. If you aren't, don't do it."
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.