When Troy Montgomery was at Mt. Vernon, the hard-hitting speed demon wreaked havoc on the Hoosier Heritage Conference for four years as he manned center field and batted leadoff for the Marauders.
In the two years since his graduation, not much has changed for him.
Montgomery still patrols center and bats lead-off; he just does it at a different place, Ohio State University.
As a true freshman last year, Montgomery jumped right into the lineup for the Buckeyes, starting 33 games in center field. The left-hander hit .235 with 18 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, two home runs, 22 RBI and four stolen bases.
If he made it look as though the transition from Marauders black and gold to Buckeyes scarlet and gray was easy, he assures it was not.
He was benched during his freshman campaign, something he had never dealt with in his career. It was a learning experience, said Montgomery, who has since earned his spot back and has started all 15 Buckeyes games this season.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Montgomery this week as he talked about winning his spot back, and the difference between prep and college baseball.
How is your second season as a Buckeye going?
“We’re doing well right now. We’re 10-5. We went through a rough patch, where we lost four games in a row, but the lineup is beginning to come together. Guys are getting healthy and back in the lineup. Our goal as team is to get to 40 wins this season. We think 40 wins will get us a Big Ten title, and then our goal is to challenge in the NCAA tourney. Individually, I’m doing well. I’ve been hitting the ball really well lately. I feel like I’m really hitting my stride (at the plate). My average is up to .290 this season.”
Getting benched had to be tough to deal with. How did you handle the demotion?
“Baseball is a team sport. So I when I was not in the starting lineup, I did whatever I could do to help the team win. That’s the best attitude you can have in those situations. Then you just have to believe in your abilities and stay positive. You have to stay positive. You’re going to go through adversity no matter what at some point, either academically or athletically. You just have to remember each day is a new day to work hard. It was a great learning experience. I had to persevere through that. I’m glad I went through it.”
How did you win your spot back?
“I started hitting a little better, and I played the field better. And I grew up a little. I went from 18 to 19. I know that doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it was to me. I’ve learned a lot and grown up a lot in the past year.”
You weren’t the only Hancock County baseball star to go play at Ohio State last year. Greenfield-Central standout Curtiss Irving joined you and was your roommate. How has that experience been?
“I loved it. We both loved it so much that we’ve now made the transition from living in the dorms together to living in an apartment together. We haven’t moved away from each other at all, which is awesome. He is a person I grew up playing baseball with, and we still are playing together. I love it.”
You were the cause of a lot anxiety for Hancock County pitchers and catchers with your speed on the base paths. You went just 4 for 9 on steals last year but are already 5 for 5 this season. How is stealing bases different in college, and how have you improved from last season?
“It’s just about growing and getting comfortable. In college, it has been important for me to know which counts are the best time to steal. I didn’t really have to do that so much in high school. I can’t steal off fastballs. I want to wait for breaking pitches. I’ve gained a lot of confidence my sophomore year in identifying those opportunities.
“The biggest difference in college from high school is the catchers are better. They’ll get you if you make a mistake with your read or jump. Also, teams definitely know who you are. They know if you’re a threat to steal, so that makes it more challenging.”
You had a little trouble deciding on which college you wanted to attend, first committing to the University of Illinois and then de-committing and eventually choosing the Buckeyes. What advice would you give Hancock County athletes trying to decide where to continue their careers?
“Yeah, well before Illinois wanted me to come play for them, no one else had really contacted me. I was so excited to have the opportunity that I agreed too quickly and too early on. I made an irrational decision. I did not give myself enough time to decide. After I did, I decided I didn’t feel it was right place for me at that time.
“A lot goes in to that decision. Academics come first. That’s the biggest thing. But then you have to factor in the coaching staff and the team you’re playing with. Will there be good camaraderie with those guys? Can you see yourself developing good relationships with them? … The most important thing a kid can do is make sure when he makes a decision that it feels right. Take your time and don’t jump at the first school that comes calling.
“A big reason I chose Ohio State is because of the winning tradition. This is a school that knows how to win.”
Who are some of your favorite MLB players to watch?
“I really like Adam Eaton (Chicago White Sox center fielder) and Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees center fielder). I look up to those guys because they’re guys who play like me. They’re not big guys, but they play to their strengths. They use their speed, and they both play a great center field.”
There are no professional teams in Indiana, so is there a team you have adopted as your favorite?
“I like the (Boston) Red Sox. I just love the mentality they have. Two years ago with the beards and then the whole #Bostonstrong thing. They rallied around their city. I really like that about them. They haven’t always been my favorite. I’m kind of a bandwagon fan.”
You have said before playing professional baseball is your dream. Is that still the case?
“Of course I still have that. I work toward that every day. I just have to keeping believing that it is within reach. I have to live up to what I have been doing my whole life. I know it’ll be hard, but it’s not impossible. I know how close I am. I just need a few things to go my way.”
Name: Troy Montgomery
Parents: Jeff and Jenny Montgomery
Sibling: Lauren Montgomery (junior at Mt. Vernon)
High School: Mt. Vernon
College: Ohio State University
Area of study: Business
Dream: To play baseball professionally.
Prep highlights: Four-year letterwinner and three-time all-conference selection; garnered first team all-state honors as a senior and honorable mention all-state honors as a junior … hit .460 with two home runs, 19 stolen bases and 16 runs scored as a junior after batting .516 with eight home runs and 28 stolen bases as a sophomore. … Hancock County Co-Player of the Year as a senior with Greenfield-Central pitcher Curtiss Irving, Montgomery’s current roommate and a pitcher for the Buckeyes.
College highlights: Played in 49 games, including 33 starts in center field for the Buckeyes (30-28) as a true freshman; batted .235 with 18 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, two home runs, 22 RBI and four stolen bases … As a sophomore has started all 15 games for Ohio State (10-5) in center field; batting .286 with team-high 11 runs scored; 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts; perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.