He sits in the bullpen waiting, waiting for pitching coach Jeff Lahti to give him the signal “get him hot.” He springs from the bench, grabs his mask and gets the next pitcher loose and then he returns to the bench. His name is Zach Montero and he is the bullpen catcher. Montero is currently in his redshirt season, which means he is ineligible to play, but unlike the other redshirts who might keep the scorebook or chase down foul balls, Montero has a role that can affect the outcome of the game without stepping onto the field.
“It’s rough [not playing],” Montero said. “But I’m just glad to be a part of the team. We have a great group of guys and I’m excited for the next two years.”
Montero grew up in Banks, Oregon where he started playing baseball at four years old, originally as a shortstop. His father and coach, Dave, moved him to catcher one day and it stuck. After Montero’s family moved to Arizona his eighth grade year, he started to feel like baseball was the sport for him.
“The baseball competition is crazy down [in Arizona],” Montero said. “You got ex-Major League guys’ kids you’re playing with, guys are throwing low 90s in high school, a lot of Division-one players, guys getting drafted. Down there baseball’s a lifestyle not just a sport.”
Now back in Oregon, the hardest transition for Montero has been the weather.
“Our first game was up at Lower Columbia [College]; it’s 38 degrees and I’m freezing sitting in the bullpen,” Montero said with a smile. “I called my mom after and I was like ‘what did I do.’ After sixth months I’ve kind of got used to it.”
Montero’s biggest goal in the bullpen is to keep the atmosphere light.
“A lot of times relievers get put in tough situations,” Montero said. “You have to keep them up and keep them stress-free. As much as I can keep them laughing that’s my main goal.”
The relievers agree that Montero does a great job as bullpen catcher.
“[Montero] always has a lot of energy,” freshman pitcher Derek Eubanks said. “He always gets me pumped up and works on my spots. He helps me perform the way that I do.”
As much as Montero keeps it light in the bullpen, he also keeps it light outside of baseball, said Mason Schimmel, freshman pitcher and Montero’s roommate.
“Every morning he comes into my bedroom and wakes me up by saying ‘come on baby Schim,” Schimmel said while holding back a laugh. “When he’s around your day just lights up.”