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Aiming for 'The Show'

Local pitchers enter professional baseball world

Posted: August 8, 2008 8:54 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

For high school seniors, the thought of entering the "real world" may seem quite daunting.

But imagine the "real world" you're entering into consisting of autograph signing and agents brokering deals that make you more money than you have ever seen in your life.

That in fact was the case with three local baseball pitchers - Hart's Michael Montgomery, Saugus' Shawn Smith and Michael Hebert - who all were selected in June's Major League Baseball draft.

But their summer didn't include lounging pool side with friends and late night partying.

In fact it was more work than play.

"We have a lot of early days and it's a lot of hard work," he said. "It's fun though and better than I thought it was."

Montgomery, who was taken by the Kansas City Royals as the No. 36 pick overall, boarded a flight a week after graduation to Surprise, Ariz., where he suited up to play with the Arizona Fall League Royals' rookie ball club.

Forgoing a scholarship opportunity to Cal State Fullerton, Montgomery signed a lucrative deal with the Royals and has been working alongside Cy Young-winning left-hander Mark Davis, who is the pitching coach.

The Santa Clarita Valley's highest Major League Baseball draftee since Roger Salkeld in 1989 has had a pretty good summer on the mound so far.

The 6-foot-5 southpaw earned his first win on Sunday and in eight games, six of those being saves,
Montgomery gave up 19 hits, walked seven batters, striking out 21. Hitters that face him are batting .216.

The Centurions, touted as the team to beat this past season in the Foothill League, did not finish ahead of Montgomery and the Hart Indians. But the squad did produce two of the area's pitchers taken in this year's draft.

Hebert and Smith are believed to be the only other two Saugus players to be taken directly out of high school to a major league ball club since Salkeld.

Hebert said going from high school ball to professional ball has been a huge adjustment. With 12-hour days and six games a week, he said the sacrifices are worth being able to live out his dream.

The former Centurion, selected in the seventh round by the New York Mets, reported to the Gulf Coast League Mets rookie team in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The 6-foot-3 pitcher said he's not a fan of the Florida humidity and is convincing the Mets staff to bring a club to Southern California. Since his debut with the squad, Hebert has pitched 13 innings in seven games.
He's given up nine hits, allowed 13 runs and has struck out 12 batters.

"I came in with my eyes open and I wanted to learn a lot of stuff," he said. "I didn't want to be hard-headed and I wanted to impress a lot of people. I think I've done that. I'm pretty excited about the future."

Smith is enjoying his rookie start in West Va.

The 6-foot-3 southpaw, who was taken in the ninth round by the Tampa Bay Rays, is seeing success with the Princeton Devil Rays ball club as a relief pitcher.

Smith earned his first win on July 15. In 10 innings, he's allowed 11 hits, gave up five runs and struck out eight batters.

The Saugus graduate said recently that he is looking forward to working his way through the ranks of minor league baseball.

"I want to improve everyday and learn something new from my coaches," Smith said.

With only a couple of weeks left in the season, each of the players is looking forward to the next step in their career.

Smith and Hebert will participate in instructional ball next month in preparation for what will be a grueling spring training beginning in March.

For each of the athletes, though, the rigors of moving through the minors is just apart of fulfilling their goals.

The road ahead of them may be a long and winding one, but the light at the end of their tunnel is a spot on a major league roster.

"I just want to move up and make it to the majors," Smith said.


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