"I know my role."
In 2006, Luke Montz once again showed the baseball world that he was a legitimate power hitting prospect, launching 16 home runs on the season. But, perhaps his most important development was his continued refinement into not just slugger, but a pure hitter. We recently sat down with Luke to discuss this and much more. (Free Preview!)
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CapitolDugout.com: First of all, what are your overall feelings about how you did and what you were able to accomplish this year?
Luke Montz: I did like some things I did this year on the offensive side of my game. It was a huge learning year for me at the plate and working with (hitting coach) Troy [Gingrich] everyday was a huge part of my season. On defense I was fine wish. I wish I was able to catch more but playing first base was great. I felt I learned a whole lot about myself and the game. My second half of the season just got better.
CapitolDugout.com: When we interviewed field coordinator, Scott Little, his comment on you was that he thought you had potential to be a great all around hitter once you learned to "stop hooking the ball." Do you think he has a good point on that and how do you think you can work on it?
Luke Montz: Yeah, I think he has a great point on that and Troy [Gingrich] told me the same thing and that he thought that I could be a great big league hitter one day and now it is just up to myself to do it. I changed up my stance a little and I am just going to work hard from there and start hitting the ball everywhere. I know I have the power and now it's just trusting myself to do it. I know I have hit a few home runs over the last few years but I would rather hit for a better average and also hit for power. So, it is just going to take a lot of work this off-season.
CapitolDugout.com: How far do you think you have come with hitting the ball to the opposite field since last season?
Luke Montz: I believe I have come a long way. I hit one opposite field home run this year and hit some doubles that way also. And, in the second half I just really focused on staying there and I hit a lot of balls hard to center field. I just know I will get a little stronger and those hits will come.
CapitolDugout.com: Every hitter has a slightly different opinion about the difference between low-A and high-A. What were the main differences that you noticed?
Luke Montz: Well, the big thing I noticed was that I was in there everyday pretty much so when we played guys over and over and you have better catchers, they pitched me to my weaknesses. Salem stayed away from me a lot until I showed them I was going to go the other way. And, a lot of teams did that to me. Pitchers control a lot better and throw different pitches in a hitter's count, not always fastballs.
CapitolDugout.com: Was there a certain type of pitcher that you think gave you the most trouble?
Luke Montz: To tell you the truth, yeah there was. You know, Troy [Gingrich] would always tell me I gave myself trouble. I got myself out by trying to pull everything and he told me I was a good hitter when I would go deep into counts, see pitches well, and get right where I needed to be, but then I would pull something. But, a pitcher I could not get this year was a 6-foot-7 guy from Salem by the name of [Evan] Englebrook. I mean, I hit a few balls hard off of him but probably no hits.
CapitolDugout.com: You mentioned earlier that playing first base was great. How well do you feel you are adjusting to the position so far and what has been the toughest part about learning to play it now that you are there a bit more often?
Luke Montz: You know, it is funny because when Randy Knorr was with us, he worked a lot with me there and the difference from there and catcher is huge. Behind the plate, you are the quarterback and at first base, Randy would always tell me "you are the cool guy, now. Just chill and be nice and easy and pick balls. You can't be rough there." I really got to be pretty good over there this season and made some pretty good plays. You have to get the feel for turning two and things like that. I really just wanted to show them that I can play there and catch pretty good. And, I hope that they saw that.
CapitolDugout.com: What other important improvements would you like to make going into next season?
Luke Montz: I have some goals and they are really just about myself. I want to get stronger and get some size to me. It is a long season and this season was really a big learning season. It is important that you go out there day in and day out and just work hard everyday. I mean, I played a lot this year and I felt fine. I was hoping I would get a chance to go play some winter ball and now it's going to be a lot of work for next season.
CapitolDugout.com: Do you feel that you are on track to get to Double-A next season and is that one of your main goals?
Luke Montz: Troy [Gingrich] sat me down and talked to me about this at the end of the year and just gave me some advice that was great. I showed another season of hitting home runs and driving in runs. I also hit some doubles so I don't know what will happen. What I do know is that I would like to work hard and show them I can play everyday for them either at catcher or first base. And, I would love to work my way into that chance. I didn't do all that much catching this year with Devin Ivany on the same team as me. But, I felt when I did catch I did a great job. I threw a lot of guys out felt and I took control of the game with my pitcher and we went to work. And, Troy said just to work hard to get better and fight for Double-A. If I go back to Potomac, I know what I have to do to get to Double-A. There's nothing wrong with repeating a league was what he was telling me. But, I will work hard to show them I can be an everyday guy for a team and produce. That's what is important.
CapitolDugout.com: For a Nationals fan who would like to know more about you, what would be the most important thing they should know?
Luke Montz: I am a player who really goes at it hard everyday. I know my role. I was not a first rounder or a money guy and nothing will stop me from getting to the bigs. I am a winner and I hate to lose, hate it. I work hard and the game means a lot to me. I would love to play on a winning team one day and win a championship.