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Montgomery: A dream come true

• Drafted No. 36 overall by Royals, will turn to pro

Posted: June 6, 2008 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Hart graduate and Kansas City Royals draft pick Michael Montgomery takes a call from a local Royals scout Thursday afternoon.

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There were a few tense moments in Michael Montgomery's house on Thursday.

But as soon as the crowd gathered in his living room heard the words "the Kansas City Royals select Michael Montgomery" on the television screen, the house erupted, his teammates dogpiled on top of him, his father David bumped fists with his son, and his mom cried.

The Royals took Montgomery with the 36th pick, one of the sandwich picks between the first and second round just one day after his high school graduation.

"We went crazy," said Montgomery, a 6-foot-5 left hander from Hart High School.

Montgomery is believed to be the higest drafted player from the Santa Clarita Valley since Tad Venger was taken by the Cincinnati Reds 24th overall in 1977. Both Todd Zeile and Jerry Owens were taken in the second round while James Shields went in the 16th.

No. 36, which made Montgomery the first high school southpaw taken, was high enough for him to all but solidify his decision to bypass Cal State Fullerton and turn pro. The parameters he and his family set had a low of $800,000 and the Royals were aware of the number. Last season's 36th pick received a bonus of $650, 000 but he was a special case because he was a college senior. The 37th pick last year signed for $832, 500, and Montgomery said he was told a 20% increase is in order for this year's selections.

Paul Cohen, Montgomery's agent, had several discussions with the Royals prior to the draft and said he would continue negotiations next week after the Royals finish the rest of their draft.

"We're all optimistic it will get done," Cohen said.

Montgomery said he could not fathom a situation where he would change his mind and go to college. In the meantime, the contract details are in the hands of Cohen so Montgomery had more important things to attend to. Like buying a Royals hat.

After spending most of his Thursday afternoon getting bombarded with phone calls, Montgomery ventured out of his house to try on his new head gear. His voice was beaming.

"I kind of just wanted to get out of there," he said.

For awhile, however, there was a lot of ahhs. Montgomery expected to be taken somewhere from 20-40 and as each name was announced, the anticipation grew and the nerves increased.

Finally, he could exhale.

"Almost a sense of relief," he said. "In the beginning I wasn't real nervous and then as it kept going, some possible spots where I could have gone and didn't go, I was getting a little nervous."

One of the calls came from a local area Royals scout.

"He basically said ‘congratulations, you've been the guy we wanted and we didn't think we'd get you,'" Montgomery said.

Another came from the Fullerton coach.

"I still might," Montgomery said before he hesitated.

"I'm probably not going to go to college," he said with a sly laugh.

Before the draft, Montgomery told his Hart teammates he'd have a new favorite team at the end of the day. The Royals, a team Montgomery didn't think would take him, won the sweepstakes.

"I think they're really good fit because they take care of their prospects," Montgomery said.

Royals general manager Drayton McClure was a former executive in the Atlanta Braves organization, which was often praised for developing young talent.

"To be in that kind of situation bodes very well for Michael," Cohen said.

Hart coach Jim Ozella thinks Montgomery has all the attributes he needs to succeed as he attempts to reach his goal of making the Major Leagues.

"He just needs to make a step by step movement up the ladder," Ozella said. "Keep refining his game, keep getting bigger, getting stronger, developing his pitches. I'm real confident that's going to happen because he's way determined."

Along with a hat, Montgomery said he'd buy himself a new phone. His didn't have the capability to play music as his ringtone so his head was ringing after the draft. With his new contract, Montgomery will probably be able to afford a lot of other things. But in a week or two, all that won't matter. Montgomery will start his professional career in the Royals minor league system.

"I can see Michael and his work ethic and his talent getting to the show at 20-21 years old," Cohen said. ‘'But there are so many variables."

It was all just a dream such a short while ago.

Not until recently did Montgomery think he'd be playing pro ball. College was on his radar and maybe eventually the next step. But he didn't think it would come this soon.

"I would say almost surreal, I don't think it's really hit me yet," he said.

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