DENVER — Benny Montgomery can run from home plate to first base in four seconds. He’s got a cannon for an arm, and the potential to become one of the best sluggers in the Rockies organization.
But laundry and cooking? Those tasks still elude the 18-year-old.
“I’ll be calling Mom asking how to make stuff,” he said.
Montgomery was drafted eighth overall by the Rockies, the only high school player selected by the organization this year. In the span of less than a month, Montgomery went from an average high school student to a professional baseball player with a signing bonus of $5 million in his pocket.
“I’m nervous,” his mother Tanyia Montgomery said, just hours before Montgomery would head off to his first posting in the Arizona Complex League. “Benny is not. I asked him every day and he said he feels fine, he’s excited. He’s not showing any signs of being nervous.”
Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies first round pick out of high school in 2015, remembers that feeling well. Like Montgomery, he had never done laundry when he reported to rookie ball, and Rodgers still to this day does not know how to cook.
“Traveling and being away from family was difficult at first,” he said.
Rodgers is the youngest on the team, and for a while considered himself the baby of the group. Montgomery jokes that he’s the same for this current draft class.
The Rockies, though, don’t see Montgomery as anything less than a future star. They scouted him for two years, and were impressed with his maturity every step of the way.
When the Rockies are looking at players, talent is a priority. But being able to mentally handle playing professional baseball is just as important. Marc Gustafson, the senior director of scouting, said he walks away from players he thinks aren’t ready.
"It happens more than you think," Gustafson said.
For Montgomery, a switch flipped during his sophomore year of high school. His stock began to rise after attending the main event showcase in Florida, and Montgomery quickly realized that he needed to show he was grown up if he was going to have a shot at being drafted.
His parents, who were helping him organize interviews and scout visits, felt themselves being pushed aside. “In a great way,” his father, Ben Montgomery, added.
From that point on, Montgomery became his own secretary. He scheduled everything himself, working around his busy baseball schedule, trips to Alabama to work with hitting coach Casey Smith and time to just be a normal teenager.
Montgomery, who said he was shy when he was younger, also broke out of his shell and became his own advocate. Last year, he felt like his swing needed some extra attention. So he traveled from his hometown in Pennsylvania down south to a town outside Birmingham, Alabama to work with Smith. His father attended the trips with him, but that was more of a logistical concern. Montgomery was not old enough to rent a car, the only way to travel to the lessons.
For his entire childhood, Ben Montgomery accompanied his son to every tournament, camp and practice, using up all of his vacation days to support his budding career. Now they are sending him off to Arizona, where he’ll stay in a hotel and get every meal cooked for him, then to minor league ball, where the conditions will not be as luxurious.
His parents, meanwhile, are taking their first vacation in years, confident that they’ll be back in Denver in a few years to watch Montgomery make his major league debut.
"Will he miss us? I’m not sure," Tanyia Montgomery said.