Athletic mom a big influence on Montgomery

Athletic mom a big influence on Montgomery

SEATTLE -- When Mariners pitcher Mike Montgomery needed a throwing partner last offseason, he didn't hesitate.

"Mom, grab your glove," the lanky left-hander said. And next thing you know, mother and son were playing catch in the street in front of the home where he grew up in Valencia, Calif.

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Most Major League ballplayers have stories of their moms driving them to games when they were little, offering encouragement and providing support through their baseball ventures. But Montgomery, a 26-year-old southpaw, happens to have a mom who was a softball and basketball standout at Cal Poly Pomona and still relishes the chance to play catch with her 6-foot-5 son.

"I'd let 'em go, too," Montgomery said with a smile. "I'd throw curveballs, changeups, everything. She was catching 'em all and saying, 'That's all you've got?' I'm like, "Dang, I can't even impress my mom.'

"It's pretty cool, playing catch with your mom still and throwing it as hard as you possibly can and she's catching it no problem. I don't feel like a lot of people can say that."

Indeed, Jeannette Montgomery has her own impressive athletic credentials. As a 5-foot-10 forward, she helped Cal Poly Pomona win an NCAA Division II national championship in basketball in 1982 and still holds the school record for assists and games played during her career from 1979-83.

Now working as a physical education teacher at Arroyo Seco Junior High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., she's passed along her love of sports to her son and now will enjoy her first Mother's Day with Mike on a Major League roster this Sunday.

"It's exciting, but mostly we're just really proud of him," she said. "He spent so much time in the Minors and worked so hard to get there. We knew he could do it, it was just a matter of time."

Montgomery credits his mom and dad, who played baseball at Temple Tennessee College, with providing the right environment to help him flourish as he got older.

"My mom was a huge influence," he said. "Along with my dad, she got me into sports growing up. She'd be shooting hoops with me in the street when I was 5 years old. We always played H-O-R-S-E and she'd beat me half the time and probably still could."

His dad coached him in basketball at Hart High School, where he was nominated as a McDonald's All-American and was good enough to be pondering a scholarship to Cal-State Fullerton until the Royals drafted him in the first round in 2008 and turned his future to baseball.

But he acknowledges his mom was the one who supplied the needed discipline.

"She was hard on me, probably harder than my dad, sports-wise," he said. "There were times she'd pull me off the field for being dumb. Growing up I was kind of a hot head in basketball and baseball, and there was one time she just grabbed me by my ear and dragged me off the field in front of the team and everyone there. It was pretty embarrassing, but I learned my lesson, to say the least. She wasn't afraid to do that. And I appreciate that more, now, obviously.

"She taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I'm pretty fortunate to have a mom who was that well-versed in sports. She was good herself and she'd always tell stories about how they won the NCAA title for basketball. I was like, 'Yeah, so what, mom, whatever.' But it is pretty cool, for sure."

Jeannette laughs at the memories as well.

"I always said play hard, but play by the rules," she said. "It's being competitive, in the right way."

And now she and her husband enjoy watching their son compete at the Major League level. Both are teachers, so they can travel to games in the summers and were at his first big-league start as well as several road trips last year and were in Texas and Seattle when he opened his first full season in the Majors last month.

After a midseason callup, Montgomery started 16 games last year and threw back-to-back shutouts at one point. This season he's converted to a relief role and made the club from Opening Day, which has changed things for his parents back home in California.

"We never know when he's going to get in now," Jeannette said, "so we're watching every game."

And enjoying every moment. Turns out the son isn't the only one who brings a little passion to the playing field.

"My sister and cousin tell me it's very interesting watching your parents watch you pitch on TV," Montgomery said with a chuckle. "Because my dad is quiet and trying to pay attention. And my mom is just intense, yelling at the TV. It's very entertaining, from what I've heard."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.