Charlie Montoyo said he had some unfinished business when the former Durham Bulls manager returned to town Thursday to celebrate his induction into the International League Hall of Fame.
Montoyo was honored by having his Bulls jersey number (No. 25) retired during a pregame ceremony before the Bulls’ contest with the Rochester Red Wings.
The former Bulls skipper, with his wife Samantha and sons Tyson and Alex, was making his second return to Durham since being promoted to third base coach for the major league Tampa Bay Rays, the Bulls’ parent team. Montoyo was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Raleigh Hot Stove League banquet, only weeks after the Rays announced he would be joining rookie manager Kevin Cash’s staff.
“When I was talking, I didn’t thank enough people,” Montoyo said Thursday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. He attended to that oversight this time but admitted there were “too many to name.”
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Montoyo served as manager of the Durham Bulls for eight years (2007-14), and during his tenure he earned a franchise-record 633 victories and claimed the 2009 Triple-A championship, two IL Governors’ Cup crowns and seven South Division titles.
The all-time winningest manager in Bulls history, Montoyo is the fifth person to have his uniform number retired by Durham. Among them, former Durham Bulls manager and 2012 IL Hall of Fame inductee Bill Evers (No. 20) was on hand for Thursday’s ceremony. The other numbers retired by Durham are those of: MLB Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (No. 18), Atlanta Braves’ great Chipper Jones (No. 10) and Crash Davis (No. 8) of “Bull Durham” fame.
Now that Montoyo has reached the major leagues, the natural progression for him would seem to be an eventual managerial post. He isn’t rushing it.
“I want to be the best third base coach I can be right now,” he said. “Do I like to manage? Yes. I like to be a leader. But I don’t like looking ahead. I want to do the best job I can.”
He said of his manager Cash, “I’m lucky to have a kid like that. I say kid because he’s 20 years younger than me. But he doesn’t think he knows everything. He uses his coaches.”
Baseball officials at Thursday’s proceedings heaped praise upon Montoyo.
“This part of the country, the Triangle, has had plenty of athletic superstars,” IL President Randy Mobley said. “In my opinion, Charlie belongs right in that category. What he did in this day and age, at the Triple-A level, is phenomenal. I can’t imagine in an eight-year span that you can have more success than he’s had.”
Bulls general manager Mike Birling said Montoyo’s impact on the franchise was greater than those accomplishments.
“Numbers aside, when you look back, as much as we love the champagne showers and rings, that’s not what we think of when we think of Charlie,” Birling said. “We think of the relationships we had with him. The trials he had to go through, it naturally brought everyone closer.”
The trials Birling touched on involved the health of Montoyo’s younger son Alex, now 8 years old. Alex was born with only one heart ventricle and has had four open-heart surgeries and literally thousands of medical procedures during his young life. Because Alex is such a big baseball fan, his dad shoots a video of every major league ballpark he visits to share with his son.
The elder Montoyo said he enjoyed his time in Durham, even the bus rides. “I loved everything about it,” he said. “I was leaving a good place; I wasn’t leaving a bad place.”