If you were to ask a Baltimore Orioles fan who Lou Montanez is, a vast majority of them would say, “Lou who?” If you followed up by saying, “Montanez won the Triple Crown in 2008 at Double-A and went on to hit a home run in his first official major league at bat,” their response would be, “why in the hell is he not on the club?”
The unfortunate answer to that is bad luck.
As a senior in high school, Lou Montanez had the appearance of a future star. The young 18-year-old phenom was drafted third overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2000. To go along with the third overall pick, Montanez got a very sizeable signing bonus ($2.75 million).
The Cubs’ plan for Montanez was to start him out at rookie ball and slowly have him make his progression to the major league level. Unfortunately for Montanez, the dream of playing in Wrigley Field never happened, and Montanez would not make his major league debut until late in the 2008 season with the Baltimore Orioles.
During his time with the Cubs, Montanez slowly climbed his way up the ranks. He did not reach Triple-A until 2006, and struggled with his batting, hitting .224 over 81 games. Ultimately, the honeymoon between Montanez and the Cubs was cut short in 2006 after the Cubs chose not to resign him.
On Jan. 5, 2007, Montanez signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Immediately, Montanez was assigned to the Bowie Baysox, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate.
In his first 31 games for Bowie, Montanez hit .339, before being bumped up to Norfolk. Unfortunately for Montanez, the numbers did not carry over; he ended the 2007 season hitting .259 with seven home runs in 69 games at Norfolk.
The following season Montanez started the year back at Bowie, and got off to another fast start with the Baysox. In 116 games Montanez hit .335, 26 home runs, and 97 RBI, and went on to win the Eastern League Triple Crown. Montanez was than later called up to the Orioles in August of 2008, skipping Triple-A in the process.
Montanez’s major league debut for the Orioles came on August 5, 2008, however Montanez’s first major league at-bat was not until the August 6, 2008. Lou went on to do the improbable and hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.
This made Montanez only the second Oriole to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, with Buster Narum accomplishing the feat in 1963.
The early success continued for Montanez, as he finished the season hitting .295 with three home runs in 38 games for the O’s.
Montanez started off the 2009 season at Norfolk before being called up again in April. However, his stay with the Orioles did not last long due to the fact that Montanez broke his wrist, and did not return to the Orioles in 2009.
At the age of 28, Montanez entered his third spring with the Orioles in 2010. He entered today’s spring training game against the Tigers with a .310 average. Montanez increased his average to .326, going 2-4 with a triple and three RBI.
The 2010 season will likely see Montanez start out at Norfolk again due to a log jam in the outfield. Luckily for the Orioles, you can never have too many outfielders. Just as every season goes for Montanez, he will likely get an opportunity at some point in time, barring an injury or trade.