Montemayor becomes cornerstone of youth movement
The first pitch that Justin Montemayor ever saw at UH may have been a good omen — the ball ended up on Cullen Boulevard. By the time the season was over, he had hit two more home runs to tie for first on the team, had a .329 batting average and was a Freshman All American.
For Montemayor, whose quiet and unassuming nature belies his 6’2″ frame, the entire 2013 season was something of a pleasant surprise.
“I had no idea,” Montemayor said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play or not play. When Casey (Grayson) got hurt, I just went out there and did my best.”
His best played a big part in the team’s 18-win turnaround in 2012, as the team won 36 games in 2013 — one of the biggest turnarounds in collegiate baseball. It was capped by a trip to the conference tournament — a feat the Cougars hope to repeat.
“I’m so excited,” said sophomore infielder Josh Vidales. “It feels like this is our year to actually make a point that last year wasn’t a fluke, and we’re actually going to go and get more than 36 wins.”
A three-year letter winner at Anderson High School and the C-USA Freshman of the Year last year, Montemayor spent all 58 games of the season at first base despite his high school position being third base. This year, he will return to the hot corner where he played in high school. His glove matched his proficiency at the plate. He had a .988 fielding percentage.
Head coach Todd Whitting expects Montemayor and the team to continue to improve.
“All the kids that got to play last year have been through the battle and the rigors of one season of baseball,” Whitting said. “This year, we’re going to get a much more deep and experienced team, especially from the position player standpoint.”
“There is really no sophomore slump in baseball,” Whitting said, dismissing the superstitious concept of a dreaded fall off in performance after an exceptional first year.
“Everything is new. The last at bat never equals the next at bat. One season never equals the next season.”
At a new position with the words All American behind him, Montemayor was the epitome of confident in practice, which could be a result of the Cougars’ success last season.
“I know what I need to get done and when I need to get it done,” Montemayor said. “You still have to come out and compete every day for your spot. You still have to prove to the coaches and yourself that you deserve that starting job.”