Title game looms large for Old Mill and coach

No. 1 Chesapeake in way of Montgomery's 400th win

High Schools

Baseball

May 13, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Tonight's Anne Arundel County baseball championship game has added significance for Old Mill and its coach, Mel Montgomery.

The No. 2 Patriots (16-4) can repeat as county champions by beating top-ranked Chesapeake (17-2) at Joe Cannon Stadium, and with a win they would give Montgomery a second prize: his 400th career victory.

"It will definitely be special if we win the county championship the same night," said Montgomery, who is in his 26th season as the Patriots' coach with a career record of 399-147 (.731), including three of the county's 23 state titles, most by any state school in baseball.

The coach has a baseball signed by his players for each of every 50 wins he has had at Old Mill. None of the seven baseballs in his home showcase represents a championship game, as well.

Montgomery's next win will put him in exclusive company -- the third public school coach in Maryland to reach 400 wins and the eighth, counting private schools. He would be Anne Arundel's second to reach 400.

Arundel's Bernie Walter has the most by a public school coach with 529 in 31 seasons.

"I've got a lot of great memories and relationships that have continued," said Montgomery, who retired as a teacher last year but was recertified as a teacher/coach for five years.

One of the enduring relationships the coach was referring to is with Scott Willey, who played for Montgomery 20 years ago and now lives in Houston.

Willey's wife recently e-mailed Montgomery to tell him that she was having a surprise 40th-birthday party next month for her husband.

"His wife told me ... that I was going to be his surprise," said Montgomery, obviously touched. "She's flying me out there to Houston to surprise Scott. That means a lot to me."

Rodney Williams, Montgomery's third base coach and hitting instructor of 19 years, said the two eagerly look forward to being with the kids each spring.

"Mel and I are very comfortable with each other and get along great," said Williams, who gets all signs from the head coach. "Mel is very knowledgeable and is old school, like me. He doesn't like to change things and loves the competition and playing against the best."

Montgomery freely admitted that he loathes the bunt, and Williams is on board with that.

"I think in the 19 years I've been with him, we've only bunted twice," said Williams, slightly exaggerating, although the Pats had no sacrifice bunts in 2001 and only one in 2000.

"Mel's theory is that you only get 21 outs [in seven innings] so why give them up?"

Williams and Montgomery agreed that this year's team "might be a better hitting team than last year's" Class 4A state champion. .

Montgomery has had more than his share of memorable teams, but last year's will be tough to top. His son Zach was a second-team All-County second baseman.

"I'll always have the special memory of Zach catching a pop-up for the final out in the state championship game, after the way he worked to finish strong," Montgomery said. "But [tonight] could be very special, too."

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