‘Undersized’ Montemayor makes big impact for Baylor baseball

No. 36 freshman pitcher Troy Montemayor throws the ball to the batter on Tuesday April 7 at the Baylor Ballpark. Baylor baseball played UT Arlington and beat them by an impressive 9-5 lead (this score may need to be updated).

It’s five to four. The Bears lead heading into the ninth inning on a Tuesday night at Baylor Ballpark.

They’re looking to finish off Sam Houston State for the second time this season and it all comes down to the last frame.

“Now pitching for your Bears,” the PA announcer’s voice booms throughout the park, “number 36, Troy Montemayor … The Mayor!”

Montemayor jogs to the mound to throw a few warm-up pitches before attempting to close the game for his team.

The inning begins. First batter, single. Second batter, single. The air becomes tense as the crowd starts to tighten up with nervousness. Third batter, pop-up. Fourth batter, strikeout.

The crowd suddenly loosens and begins a slow clap that speeds up as Montemayor throws each pitch. With two outs and two strikes, he needs just one more strike to seal the win for Baylor.

The pitch is thrown and it flies off the bat toward second base. The second baseman grounds the ball but makes an errant throw toward first.

As a result, the first baseman must leave the base to catch the ball and the opposing runner remains safe to load the bases.

Montemayor proceeds to give up another single, allowing Sam Houston State to score two runs and win the game.

Montemayor walks toward the dugout with a blank expression on his face. His first blown save of the season.

Coming in as a walk-on to the Baylor program, Montemayor said he always felt he could make a difference for a team, he just needed the opportunity.

“I didn’t get looked at by anybody, so this was my best chance to actually make a big Division-I program,” Montemayor said. “My mindset was just try to be better than everybody else and try to show that I was good enough to be here.”

As a freshman he served a relief pitcher role, but one that was not set in stone. This year, Montemayor leads the Big 12 in saves as the primary closer for the Bears. He also sits at first place on the team with a 0.95 ERA.

Standing at 5-feet 11-inches and weighing barely 160 pounds, Montemayor is far from the look of an intimidating pitcher. But he said that his size is something that motivates him to be better.

“People don’t take me seriously because of my size,” Montemayor said, “I have to go out and prove myself every time.”

Additionally, Montemayor doesn’t throw the ball hard. His pitches peak at 88 mph, which is fairly slow for a D1 pitcher. He makes up for it, however, with deceptive pitches that reach spin rates most batters can’t read.

Head coach Steve Rodriguez describes it as “an off speed pitch that could be a swing and miss pitch but at the same time he can throw it for a strike.”

Montemayor made an impression on fellow teammates in his first outing. During an intra-squad scrimmage his freshman year, he impressed so much that starting pitcher Daniel Castano dubbed him “The Mayor”, and the nickname has stuck with him since.

Working as the closer for the Bears, Rodriguez said confidence is something that Montemayor doesn’t lack.

“I’ve coached some kids who have a lot of talent they just don’t think they’re very good,” Rodriguez said,.“Troy thinks he’s good.”

Self-onfidence is crucial for closing pitchers, as they must be able to handle the pressure in close games to pick up the win for their team.

The pressure, Montemayor said, is something that he thrives on when he goes out to pitch at the end of the game.

“It feels like I always get the best hitters that come up,” Montemayor said. “Normally the 2-3-4 guys every single time. The pressure forces me to be on my game more. It allows me to pitch better.”

It’s incredible that Montemayor has only one blown save on the year. With his stature, it’s hard to believe that opposing hitters would be intimidated. Yet when the PA announcer called out his name on Tuesday night, you could feel the effect of his presence on the crowd and the opposing team. As for Baylor? They’re just happy to have him for two more years.