Baseball star steps up to the plate
By Doyle Fox, The Leader-Post
Josh Montana is stepping up to the plate for young First Nations baseball players in Saskatchewan.
"He is definitely a great role model for that community because he is just a pleasure to be around," said Greg Brons, Montana's coach with the Saskatchewan under-15 baseball team.
Montana, who is registered to the George Gordon First Nation but resides in Regina, started playing baseball when he was five years old in the North Regina Little League and took to the game immediately.
"I just liked being on the field - it felt like I belonged there," he said.
The feeling soon became a reality as Montana found success on the mound and in the batter's box.
He played on several allstar teams, often led the league in home runs, and won provincial titles in 2010 and 2011. Last season was the most successful of the young player's career. He led the bantam AAA league in home runs and RBIs, helping the Buffalos win the league championship and a silver medal at the western Canadian championship. His on-field performance warranted an invitation to the provincial Bantam Selects Tournament, where he represented the City of Regina last August. Montana helped Regina win the tournament and, in doing so, he caught the attention of Brons and the Saskatchewan under-15 coaching staff.
"First of all, he was a very personable kid," said Brons. "He's got a lot of character - very conscientious, a hard worker and a dedicated athlete. He's a great teammate, that's the No. 1 thing. He is well liked by his peers and is definitely a kid you don't need to babysit."
Montana got his first taste of playing ball for Saskatchewan last September where he excelled on the corner bases at the prospects tournament in Okotoks, Alta. Brons added that Montana batted well enough that opposing pitchers had to try to pitch around him.
"It gave me a lot of confidence and gave me a good read at where I am with everyone in Saskatchewan," Montana recalled.
Montana was back in Okotoks with Team Saskatchewan this May, where he continued to develop his game and make his case for a spot on the Saskatchewan under-17 team that will be competing in the Canada Cup in Saskatoon in August. He will also be looking to make the jump to the Canadian national baseball team.
Currently, Montana is playing with the midget AAA Regina Mets of the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League, where he was the first player to hit a home run in his first game.
Montana is also slated to represent Regina at the North American Indigenous Games in July. He is looking forward to competing with the best from North America and seeing other First Nations baseball players excel at the game.
Playing baseball for Saskatchewan and in the North American Indigenous Games is providing Montana a stage that will help him continue his journey. In hopes that he can eventually make the jump to college ball, Montana develops his game at Inside Pitch, working out two to three hours per day, six days a week.
"He's dedicated," Brons said. "He does the off-season training where he has to develop that first-step quickness, so in the future that will definitely be something he will improve on."
Montana believes working hard in school is equally important. That's something he wishes to pass on to other young First Nations ball players, in addition to staying away from drugs and alcohol.
Even though he is still a teenager, Montana is embracing the opportunity to be a role model for younger First Nations baseball players.
"I feel like I'm doing something for First Nations people," he said, "and I want to give other kids the chances I had coming up, and they can play AAA and provincial ball one day."