Former South Carolina pitcher Jordan Montgomery is a busy man these days. As a part of the New York Yankees’ starting rotation, the 24-year-old has been working on getting settled in and adjusted as a rookie in the Major Leagues.
And it hasn’t been half bad. After a no decision against Tampa Bay on April 12 that saw him go 4.2 innings and strike out seven while allowing three runs, five hits and a walk, he picked up his first career win against the Chicago White Sox on Monday after allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four in six innings. The reviews have been positive: articles online have said that he can be a “rising star”, that he has “staying power”, that he could be the next Andy Pettitte.
The kid from Sumter, South Carolina, might actually make it in pinstripes. He wouldn’t be the first Sumter product to do so: Bobby Richardson won three World Series with the Yankees and was the Series MVP in 1960. Also on that 1960 squad: some guy named Mickey Mantle and another named Roger Maris.
Jordan was kind to take a few minutes out of his schedule to chat with us about his career thus far, getting that first win, and some of his memories from pitching for South Carolina.
First off, congratulations on your first major league win on Monday. Can you take me through that and what you’ve learned so far?
I just try to go out there and execute my pitches - take it one pitch at a time. Things can snowball real quick so you’ve got to stay focused.
So many players have put on that Yankees uniform in the past - Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, etc. Is there a certain pressure involved in wearing that uniform based on the history of the team?
Not really. I think as a group here we’re just trying to win games and play baseball. We’re doing what we can do and worrying about what we can worry about.
Have you had a chance to talk to any former Yankees as of yet?
In spring training I talked to Gator (Ron Guidry) a lot. Goose (Gossage), (Andy) Pettite - there were a good group of guys that sat down with me and talked to me. They told me what to expect and not to make the game more difficult than it is already.
Take me through your college years and your career at South Carolina. What was it like playing for Ray Tanner and his expectations of players each game? Have you been able to keep in touch with many of your former teammates?
Coach Tanner is definitely one of the greats. He told everybody that you may not be the most talented but you’re going to be the toughest group of guys out there. That’s one of the things he harped on and made sure it stuck with everybody.
(He and Chad Holbrook) are both good coaches. They go about the game the right way and bring in the right guys to win games.
I had lunch (on Tuesday) with one of my old teammates that’s working in New York. (I keep in touch with) Grayson (Greiner), Tanner (English), Joey (Pankake), Joel (Seddon), basically my whole recruiting class and a bunch of the fifth-year seniors I played with. At least 30 guys I played with have texted me and congratulated me.
You mentioned Matt Price as one of the players you keep in contact with. The two of you combined to pitch a terrific game against Arkansas in the 2012 College World Series. What was it like being on the biggest stage in college baseball?
It’s exciting. You go out there and at first you kind of feel the people’s presence. After warmups it’s kind of like everybody’s gone, whether you’re in a high school baseball game with 100 people there or you’re throwing in Omaha with 25,000 people there.
Any advice to younger pitchers that are looking to get into the game?
Work hard. Really the only thing you can do is work hard and try to be better every day. Be coachable...do things the right way. It’s what I did coming up and what I learned from the older guys, and that’s what I would tell younger guys.