Sam Stephenson on Charlie Montoyo
Charlie Montoyo coaching third base in a game against the Columbus Clippers at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. August 7, 2012. Photo by Kate Joyce.
Last Friday, May 24, Charlie Montoyo celebrated his 500th win as manager of the Bulls.
In honor of the career milestone, we’re revisiting a 2012 piece that Bull City Summer director Sam Stephenson wrote about Montoyo for the Paris Review.
I arrived at the spring-training complex of the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Florida, around ten A.M. It would be a typical mid-nineties March day under a relentless sun. I was looking for Charlie Montoyo, the forty-six-year-old manager of the Rays’ top minor-league affiliate, the AAA Durham Bulls.
Outfielder Jeff Salazar pointed me toward the “half-field,” a regulation infield with no outfield on the outskirts of the sprawling complex. A chain-link fence separated the infield dirt from a swamp. There, I found Jamie Nelson, catching coordinator for the Rays organization, tossing pitches to Venezuelan catcher José Lobatón, who was crouched in full gear. He caught the balls, exploded out of his position behind home plate—helmet and face mask falling off each time—and threw darts to second base, where Montoyo straddled the bag and gloved the throws, then tossed the balls underhand into a rolling cart.
The three men executed this drill for fifteen minutes, saying nothing. I considered returning to the car for more sunscreen. Then I thought about “deep languor,” a term Richard Ford once used todescribe the pleasant monotony of baseball and its routines. He borrowed the term, almost certainly, from a speech by Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, who used those two words in regard to the tears, shed from his heart and soul, that mark the dusty street. Languor’s Latin origins imply a dreaminess or relief through weariness or muted suffering. It’s a word that fits the origins of Southern blues or Appalachian string music, and it fits baseball, too, a sport of failure. Championship teams still lose 40 percent of their games. Hitters that succeed only 30 percent of the time make the Hall of Fame. It’s a sport in which the most successful players wear looks of rote boredom. They exercise a loose, clear-headed ambivalence necessary to perform their reactive, elegant split-second craft at the highest levels.