TORONTO – Charlie Montoyo anxiously waited at the top of the home dugout until he got a pat on his shoulder telling him that it was his turn to go on to the field at Rogers Centre.
The 53-year-old Montoyo jogged out to the third-base line, warmly greeting each member of the team’s staff as he was officially introduced as the Blue Jays manager. He then waited near home plate where he hugged every player on Toronto’s starting lineup as they came on to the turf.
It was a moment 22 years in the making.
“It was pretty cool, I was enjoying every minute of it,” said Montoyo after the Blue Jays dropped their home opener to the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on Thursday. “And how about a nail biter for my first one? It was fun.”
Montoyo played 1,028 minor-league games over 10 years — and four games with the Montreal Expos in 1993 — before retiring in 1996 to try his hand at coaching. He became the manager of the Princeton Devil Rays in 1997, the rookie-level affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, a year before the expansion franchise had its debut season.
From there Montoyo worked his way through the Rays’ minor-league system, also coaching Puerto Rico at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He earned a 1,266-1,142 record over 18 seasons as a manager in the minors before being promoted to a coach for Tampa Bay in 2014.
On Oct. 25, he was hired away from the Rays as Toronto’s new manager, replacing John Gibbons, who had agreed to a mutual parting of the ways with the Blue Jays.
“It’s a grind, one game at a time, but it’s an exciting day for me for sure,” said Montoyo. “I’ve been waiting for this for 20-something years, so it’s pretty cool.”
In his short time with the Blue Jays organization, Montoyo has already won over the veterans in Toronto’s clubhouse.
“Charlie’s awesome, I love Charlie,” said starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who gave up just two hits and four walks over seven scoreless innings. “He’s a player-first coach. He likes to have little meetings between us and he told me going into it ‘Stro, whatever you need to do to be yourself out there, go and do it.’
“So I love Charlie and I’m looking forward to being one of his guys out there each and every day.”
Veteran first baseman Justin Smoak has also been impressed by Montoyo’s influence on the team in such a short period of time.
“I feel like he’s been around a lot of young guys before, that’s something that we have a lot of (in Toronto),” said Smoak. “I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction. Today wasn’t a good showing, but one thing we’re going to do is hit, we just weren’t able to do it today.”
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