As Foresters head to NBC World Series, Montalbano leads the way

Jeremy Montalbano - Baseball

Jeremy Montalbano has been a team leader this summer as the Santa Barbara Foresters catcher. (Presidio Sports Photo)

 

When most college kids are sleeping in and spending their days binge watching Netflix on the couch, a motivated Jeremy Montalbano heads to Bayside Barbell Gym in Santa Barbara for his daily 10 a.m. workout. The ballplayer heads home for a quick lunch, deciding between some local take-out in Isla Vista and some leftovers from the night before. He takes his usual pre-game nap and heads to UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for summer league baseball.

For fans it’s just a typical day at the ballpark, but for Montalbano it’s another opportunity to improve his game for the summer. By NCAA standards, he may be known as Tulane University’s starting catcher, but to Santa Barbara locals he’s the heart and soul of the defending national champion Foresters.

Montalbano will look to lead the Foresters (32-7) to another National title in Wichita, Kansas at the National Baseball Congress World Series. Santa Barbara begins its title defense on Saturday against San Antonio Titans. Find a complete NBC World Series schedule HERE.

Before his time as the Foresters’ veteran catcher, Jeremy spent his days growing up in a small town outside of New Orleans. The son of Tony and Janice Montalbano, Jeremy found his passion in the game of baseball. However, at the age of four he found himself diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at nearly the same time he picked up a glove for T-Ball. Throughout his baseball career he’s never allowed the diagnosis to affect the way he approaches the game.

“Up until my junior year of high school I was getting 4-5 shots a day before I got my insulin pump, but it never changed the way I played or handled myself on the field,” said Montalbano.

Even with diabetes since his early years, Jeremy managed to make it to Division-1 Baseball and has become a fan favorite amongst Forester fans over the last two summers.

Despite growing up in the Big Easy, you’ll find Jeremy’s hometown listed as Katy, Texas, located on the outskirts of Houston. Following the horrific events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Montalbano family was forced to head west to Texas after their father’s workplace was destroyed from the storm. Fitting into his new environment, Jeremy took advantage of the opportunity to play in one of the highest baseball recruiting states in the country. Just like any other aspiring athlete, Jeremy had his own list of players to hone his skills after. Since he can remember, he looked up to the “Killer B’s” of the Houston Astros, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

“I was a big fan of the ‘Killer B’s’ back in the day. I loved the way the way they played, always hustling and doing whatever it took to win. Bagwell was obviously my favorite just because of the power he had at the plate,” said Montalbano.

Outside of baseball, Montalbano has always admired Super Bowl Champion quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Brees not just because he’s one of the best at what he does but for his character off the field and what he’s done for the city of New Orleans.”

With such great talents to look up to, Montalbano became one of the premiere high school players out of Texas. After earning All-State honors and being crowned the Houston Chronicle Player of the Year in his senior campaign at Seven Lakes High School, Montalbano received an offer to play at the University of Texas in Austin.

“Honestly, I almost went to Arkansas, and then I got the offer last minute from Texas and at that point it was a no-brainer for me to play ball there,” said Montalbano.

Jeremy Montalbano

Montalbano at the plate. He hit .287 during the regular season with two home runs and 19 RBI in 101 at-bats.

Playing at such a competitive baseball program, Jeremy struggled and found himself not getting the amount of playing time he had initially wanted. After spending two years at Texas, it was only fitting for Jeremy to head back to his roots, transferring to Tulane University back in New Orleans. He hoped to turn things around and get back to playing everyday. Unfortunately, due to NCAA transfer rules, Jeremy had to sit out for the entire 2015 season.

“Being a Tulane fan from the time I was a little kid, I was excited to head back to New Orleans. Obviously the hardest part was having to sit out for an entire year and not being able to compete at a high level,” said Montalbano.

Before heading back to Louisiana, Jeremy got a phone call that he’ll never forget.

“I was about to eat dinner and I got this call from a random number. It turned out to be Coach Pintard and he was awesome over the phone,” said Montalbano. Jeremy accepted the offer to play in Santa Barbara, packed his gear up, and headed west for the 2014 summer. Being housed in apartments near the oceanside UC Santa Barbara campus, obvious adjustments had to take place for the Texan.

“You can’t beat the weather here, but I think it’d be a lot harder for someone to go from California to the south. The environment here is a little more laid back but the culture isn’t as different as a lot of people think,” remarked Montalbano.

Living in apartments right off the UCSB campus, Jeremy got a taste of life outside of Texas. Of course anytime you start an experience in a college atmosphere there is bound to be some interesting encounters; especially when you get set up with a random roommate. Before living with his host family this summer, Jeremy and another teammate were housed – no joke –  with a male stripper.

“We thought we had the room to ourselves, but one of the guys turned out to be a male stripper. I came home one day and there he was practicing his routine” laughed Montalbano. “It was a pretty funny scene. You could say that was my most interesting experience my first summer here.”

Having his interesting experiences off the field with his roommate encounters and failed attempts to surf with fellow teammates, Jeremy has been all business in the batter’s box and behind the plate. Since becoming a Forester Jeremy has amassed an impressive .322 batting average, 10 HRs, and helped bring a 5th National championship back to Santa Barbara.

Down 3-2 in the 2014 National Championship against the Seattle Studs, Coach Pintard called in Montalbano to pinch hit with a runner in scoring position. Jeremy stepped into the batter’s box, belted a line drive to tie the game up, keeping the hopes of a National Title alive.

“I was upset that Coach Pintard didn’t have me in the starting lineup, but he told me not to worry because I was going to get a chance to pinch hit and have a big at-bat. I guess he’s always right,” explained Montalbano. “He loves telling people that story.”

That type of attitude from Coach Pintard is one of the main reasons Jeremy returned for a second summer with the team. Pintard has been known to be tougher on the catcher just because he’s considered a season veteran in Forester terms, but Jeremy made it clear that everyone shares a great amount of respect for the longtime coach. His laid-back style of coaching and willingness to let guys adhere to their own style of play has helped Jeremy mature as a player and person before heading back to Tulane.

Fans and coaches have grown to love the ballplayer, compiling a list of nicknames for Montalbano too long to even keep track of. Monty, Montezuma, Moose, Goose, Montzarella, and Pepperoni just to name a few. Former MLB All-Star and Forester hitting coach is notorious for calling Jeremy nearly every Italian food you can think of. After games you can see Montalbano willing to talk to fans young and old, speak with the media, and sign autographs. His personality and leadership have been infectious on fans and teammates alike. Along with his attitude off the field, he has made an argument for being inducted into the Foresters Hall of Fame with his production on the field. If Montalbano and the Foresters can defend their title back in Wichita, he definitely can seal the deal as one of the great all-time Foresters.

Even with his success here in Santa Barbara, Montalbano isn’t satisfied just yet. Heading into his redshirt Junior season at Tulane, the ultimate goal for the catcher is to get drafted and have an opportunity to play in the Majors.

“Jeremy is a really good kid, he’s got character on and off the field, and has been a leader for our team over the last two years” remarked Pintard. With Coach Pintard’s experience as an MLB scout over the years, Montalbano may get the attention he’s been dying to show organizations throughout the country.

With his character off the field, his charisma on it, and his passion for the game of baseball, the sky could be the limit for Jeremy Montalbano.

“All I can hope for is chance to play at the next level and show teams what I can do. At the end of the day I am willing to do whatever it takes and whatever a team needs out of me to help win ball games”.

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