Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - Former University of Rio Grande baseball standout Lance Montano has enjoyed the time he's spent around the RedStorm baseball program in recent weeks.
However, the New York native is preparing to depart campus again for something he'll likely enjoy even more - the chance to play professionally.
Montano recently signed a contract to play for the Evansville (Ind.) Otters of the Frontier League.
Montano spent most of the months of January and February playing for the New York Colonials of the short-season California Winter League. He appeared in 17 of the team's 18 games, batting .306 with a league-leading two home runs and eight runs batted in - a mark which ranked third in the CWL.
"A couple of weeks in I was doing well and Cameron (Roth) from the (Frontier League's) Lake Erie Crushers saw me hit and he put me in touch with (Evansville bench coach Charles) "Boots" Day. We talked and I did well that day and he gave me a contract the next day right before my game. I was trying to stay calm before the game, but it was definitely a joyous experience," Montano said. "To see that piece of paper, knowing all the work that I've put in, was a dream come true. I took a couple of days to enjoy it, but then the process started all over again."
The presentation of the contract to Montano didn't come without some good-natured hazing, though, thanks to an incident a few nights earlier at the team hotel involving the pulling of a fire alarm.
"They called me in and told me that my coach wanted to talk to me. The head of the Frontier League was there, the head of the California Winter League was there, all of the coaches were there and everybody had a serious look on their face," Montano said. "They told me to sit down and then they asked me if I was the one who pulled the fire alarm. I told them I didn't, but they kept questioning me and said they had me - or somebody who looked just like me - on videotape pulling the alarm. I told them I guess I had an evil twin because it wasn't me and then they turned it over to Boots. He said the only thing he had for me was a contract to sign. I guess I found out early how they treat rookies."
Montano spent just one season (2016) in a Rio Grande uniform, after spending two productive years at a junior college in San Francisco and another season at NCAA Division I Coppin State University in Baltimore, Md.
But he made quite an impact with the RedStorm, helping the program to a 39-25 record, a second straight Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship and a second consecutive trip to the NAIA National Tournament.
He appeared in all 64 games - starting in 63 - and finished with a .332 batting average to go along with five home runs and 52 runs batted in. The right-handed hitting first baseman/designated hitter also had 11 doubles, a triple and 42 runs scored en route to earning first team All-KIAC honors.
"I had a great time here at Rio Grande," said Montano. "My time at Coppin State - those weren't the best days of my baseball career and it was tough. I asked them for my release and a couple of weeks later (Rio Grande head) coach (Brad) Warnimont called and said he wanted me. The day I stepped on campus, it just felt right. I knew I was in the right place."
Warnimont is excited that Montano is getting an opportunity to play beyond the collegiate level.
"This is a great achievement for Lance," Warnimont said. "He's worked extremely hard for his dream to come true and to see it happen is outstanding. Lance is a great reflection on our program and a young man of very high character and we wish him all the best. We're very proud of him and his accomplishments."
Montano returned to the Rio Grande campus following the conclusion of the CWL season and has used the time to train in the weight room and pool, while also working out with the team during practice sessions.
"I've been trying to get into better shape and stay strong," he said. "Spring Training starts April 26 out in Indiana. They're wanting me to play third base. Hopefully, when I get off that bus or plane, I'll be ready to go and it'll be a great season."
Montano added that he'll forever be grateful for his one season in a RedStorm uniform.
"Most people think that, after you've played here on 'The Farm' at Rio, that's it. But if you have talent and you're surrounded by great coaches - guys like coach Warnimont, (former Rio assistant) coach (Christian) Frias, coach (Jon) Koepf and Hutch (current Rio assistant Landon Hutchison) - anything is possible. You just have to come day in, day out and do the work."
The Frontier League is an independent league formed in 1993 which features 12 teams located across the midwestern states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. Each team plays a 96-game schedule beginning in May and continuing through September.