BOSTON -- It usually happens the other way around. Minor League players commonly peruse the big league box scores, and Major Leaguers rarely have the energy or the inclination to repay the favor. But there was Lou Montanez, sitting at the table in the Fenway Park clubhouse, eagerly searching out results to live games two levels below the big leagues.
In his case, it made perfect sense. Montanez, the Most Valuable Player in the Double-A Eastern League, was monitoring the last-ditch efforts of the league's prospects to erode his control of the leaderboard. Montanez became the first player in 30 years to win the Eastern League Triple Crown on Monday, and he celebrated by donning an Orioles uniform.
"It's the first time I did something like that," he said. "I just like to be part of something that people will remember."
Montanez led the league with a .335 batting average and 26 home runs and tied for the lead with 97 RBIs. And to make it even more impressive, he did it without three weeks of competition since his callup to the Orioles. Montanez was leading the league in all three categories when he left and endured a hectic few weeks watching as his leads began to dwindle.
"That ought to tell you how far ahead of everybody else he was," said manager Dave Trembley, who also managed Montanez in the Florida State League during their shared tenure in the Cubs organization. "He was so far ahead of everybody else that it was a consensus that he earn that award. I just got done telling him that he ought to give himself a treat, come here earlier tomorrow and they may give him a tour of this place, take him up there on the [Green] Monster."
Third baseman Wes Hodges caught up to him on the RBI charts, and Montanez narrowly eluded being caught in home runs. He said that he often thought of situations where he could have hit another homer or driven in another run to make things a little less worrisome, but he was able to relax and laugh about it once the bid for history was complete.
"There's always parts in the season where you look back and thought that you could've done better. But it worked out in the end, so I'm not going to look back anymore," he said before launching into an anecdote. "There was a man on second and I hit a double to the wall and he didn't score. Mike Rodriguez, he was the center fielder, which is the fastest guy on the team. We were kidding around that it could have cost us. But I'll call him up today and laugh about it."
Montanez becomes one of five players who have led the Eastern League in all three categories. Danny Thomas of the Berkshire Brewers was the last to achieve the feat in 1976, and the other players to have done it are Joe Munson of the 1925 Harrisburg Senators, Bob Chance of the 1963 Charleston Indians and George Scott of the 1965 Pittsfield Red Sox.
The former first-round Draft pick achieved more history by becoming just the second Oriole to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat, and he said that he's had a memorable season that just keeps on getting better and better.
"You could say it would complete it, but I guess there are still some games left," he said. "You never know, something more special could happen in the next month. You never really expect it. But yeah, it's been the perfect season so far."