Ohio State’s Troy Montgomery is back refreshed, bigger, and coming off a stunning fall practice season, and carries enormous expectations for the 2016 baseball Buckeyes.
At first glance he looks more like a halfback than a bona-fide major league center field prospect.
Troy Montgomery is built low to the ground, 5’ 10”, 185 pounds, and actually looks stronger than that. He doesn’t have that willowy body type that you think of when you consider the best center fielders to ever play the game.
Yet, he has all the best attributes of those who have excelled before him, in college, and the major leagues.
His speed allows him to close on balls to the outfield gaps.
His throwing arm is strong and accurate.
He catches the ball with grace, a point many big league scouts consider, because running it down and just getting a glove on it isn’t enough.
He hits, with consistency and surprising power. His 65 hits last season netted him a .317 average, second only to his buddy Pat Porter’s .338 mark. More impressively, his on-base percentage (.431) was tops on the team. His 22 extra base hits, 4 home runs and 27 rbis were added luxuries.
His talents recognized, his obvious attributes mean everything to the success of the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes.
“Overall, Troy had the best fall season that I’ve ever coached,” says coach Greg Beals, preparing for his 6th season as coach of the Buckeyes. “He’s put on 12 pounds since last year and there’s going to be some extra punch in his bat (this year). He’s a superb defensive player that can really go get the ball and throw it. He’s the catalyst of our lineup.”
Montgomery is so respected, so important to the Buckeyes’ 2016 prospects, that he was recently named as a pre-season All-American candidate by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The Hoosier from Fortville, Indiana is entrenched in center field and at the top of the Buckeyes’ lineup, recognized with the best of the best!
“It’s a nice honor to consider,” he said recently at the Buckeyes’ annual “Meet The Team” function at the Fawcett Center. “But I’m not dwelling on it. Our biggest challenge, and a personal challenge for me, is to come back from last year’s mental collapse at the end of the season.
“We’ve spent some time dwelling on that and those mental aspects of baseball during the off-season. And for me, I’m just focused on the next pitch, taking every single pitch one pitch at a time. When I can do that it helps me to calm down and lets the game come to me. It helps me be the player that I am.”
The consistency that he showed during his sophomore season made a powerful impression, at home, and to opposing players and coaches in the Big Ten.
“He’s a great player and a tough out,” says Illinois coach Dan Hartleb. “He’s the kind of player you build on every day, the kind of guy you plan your lineup around.”
But Montgomery doesn’t get carried away with last year’s compliments. And in fact, he counts it a distant, learning experience as he prepares for 2016. It’s a new year and he currently sports a new look (a beard, and a concession by coach Greg Beals that how you play is a priority over how you look), some new bulk, and a new attitude over how to deal with the past, the present, and the future.
“I really don’t look back at last season because it’s not going to affect the way I play this season. What is going to affect me now is my preparation. Last year helped me with a positive mental approach, but it also showed me some things I have to work on. I’ve put on some size and I’m more mature, but my focus is on having a better year as a team.
“I really haven’t thought about the All-American thing. When I start thinking about awards and accolades I don’t play as well. When I just focus on what I can do on the field then the game comes to me and I become a better day-to-day player. It’s nice to hear that (the recognition), but it will not affect the way I play.”
If asked he’ll talk about the horrible three series against Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana that defined the Buckeyes’ 2015 season. If pressed he’ll detail those fateful weeks in terms of how it’s defined a need now for more mental preparedness this year.
“The mental toughness thing is good, but when it comes time to get on the field it’s just me and the group of guys around me. I’m sure we’ll handle things better than we did in the past. We’re a tighter group now, we have a brotherhood, but you do what you can do. I come to the field every day, get my workout in, and stick to my daily regimen. Coach Beals has helped me a lot with that.
He’s counting days until an opportunity for redemption, to exorcise the demons from a season that slipped away, and to fulfill the expectations that come with talent at each of the eight positions around him on the field.
“I’m confident,” says Montgomery. “I have high expectations because we have talent, and because so many of us have been here now for three years.
“I am looking forward to those series with Maryland and Illinois because we had last season in our hands and they took it from us.”
Older and wiser, the Buckeyes’ “all everything” is ready to play.
“I’m ready to get to Florida and start,” he says. “I think we’re ready for the challenge.”