The world lost one of its finest people with the passing of Greg Montalbano.
There’s really no other way to say it. It sounds cliche, but that’s what Monty was. After all he’s been through in his short life, nobody would have blamed him if he became angry, bitter or cynical in his last few years. But Monty never showed that side. “Crying is overrated,” he used to say.
When we were putting together our piece on Monty’s life, I had to laugh a little bit because one of the best pictures we had of him was taken during his last appearance for the Tornadoes. Monty is rubbing up a baseball on the mound, but in the background you can see a player rounding second base. Monty had just given up a home run. He would have hated that picture.
I walked into Hanover Insurance Park to talk to some of his friends and teammates about him. One of the part of the jobs I hate, but I wanted to make sure people who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Monty understood how many lives he touched. On my way in, I saw the banner in centerfield the team put up to remember him. It was a black banner with his initials GJM and number 22 emblazoned on it. He would have hated that, too.
The Red Sox had a moment of silence before their game on Saturday. Former teammates Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Pena each spoke glowingly about Monty – and remarkably each hit two home runs in games they dedicated to him. Pena, who played with Montalbano at Northeastern, held up a sign after his second homer that said, “For U Monti.”
Monty never wanted the story to be about him – even though it needed to be told. Monty was a month younger than I am – he would have turned 32 today, the day of his wake – and he’s been through more than anyone should. He had a heartbreaking life, but he looked at it as a gift. I remember talking to him after he joined the Tornadoes and he said he was thankful for the chance to pick up a baseball to begin with and pitch and experience life the way others weren’t so fortunate to have done. That said a lot.
You wanted to root for Greg. All of his comebacks. You just wanted him to catch one break. He deserved it. But between his injuries that derailed his promising pro career and the cancer that took his life, Monty never complained. He never wanted to be about him. I was talking to a Tornadoes player about Monty over the weekend and commented on the sign in center for him. He laughed a little and said, “Yeah, that would have drove him nuts. But it’s just as much for him as it is for us to honor what he’s meant to us in some small way.”
I’m lucky to have met Greg Montalbano. I’m going to miss him.
I wanted to share some of the outpouring of thoughts on Monty’s life so those who knew him – and those who didn’t – could appreciate how he is being remembered. Thanks to Bostonsportsmediawatch.com for making this task a little easier.
Paul Jarvey, Worcester Telegram & Gazette – http://www.telegram.com/article/20090823/NEWS/908230362/0/NEWS02
Stan Grossfeld, Boston Globe (Oct. 2008) – http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2008/10/16/a_pitch_for_life/
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald – http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/baseball/red_sox/view.bg?articleid=1192852&format=text
Lenny Migliola, Metrowest Daily News – http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sports/pros_and_colleges/x1588518838/Megliola-Montalbano-recalled-as-extraordinary
Art Davidson, Metrowest Daily News – http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sports/pros_and_colleges/x1844611639/On-Baseball-Local-star-passes-on-too-soon
Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com – http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2009/08/22/remembering-montalbano/#more-18265