On the same night that Miguel Montero tipped his cap and raised his arms in the air after the Wrigley Field video board saluted him for becoming a United States citizen, Adam Jones heard racist taunts from the Fenway Park stands.
That’s not at all trying to point out any fundamental differences between the Cubs and Red Sox or the cities of Chicago and Boston. It’s more about Major League Baseball’s powerful nature and ugly side, the game’s strengths and weaknesses and how it can reflect society as a whole.
“It’s bad to hear,” Montero said Tuesday, not really focusing on Jones being a star player for the Orioles and an important figure in the Baltimore community. “Because it doesn’t matter if you’re white, you’re black, you’re Latin, you’re Asian. Whatever you are, we’re all human beings.
“We’re all humans – we’re here for a purpose in life. Everybody has to appreciate life. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you got. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s unfortunate that we’re still seeing these things in this era.
“It hurts. It hurts because I don’t think anybody’s better than anybody. I think we’re all the same – we’re all going to die.”
After flying back from Boston, Montero didn’t fall asleep until about 5:15 a.m. on Monday. He woke up around 8 that morning, put on his 2016 World Series ring and made the short trip from his place in downtown Chicago to take the U.S. citizenship test along with his wife, Vanessa, and get his new passport.
“I was so tired that I didn’t have time to get nervous about it,” Montero said.
Montero grew up in Venezuela, signed with the Diamondbacks as a teenager in 2001 and vowed that he would learn English as soon as possible, viewing it as a requirement to become a big-league catcher and an insurance policy that would allow him to stay in the game if he got seriously injured or didn’t make The Show.
“It was so pretty for me, even though it was Tucson,” Montero said, remembering his first impressions of America. “Don’t get me wrong, Venezuela is a beautiful country, but when you think about the U.S., your mind goes so fast you don’t know what to expect.”
Montero made a point to not only hang around the players from Latin America. He wouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes or getting laughed at while he tried to learn a new language. He got good enough to become a translator for teammates during rookie ball in Missoula, Montana.
Montero built himself into a quote machine, a brutally honest veteran with old-school perspective who entertains reporters while changing the culture around a championship team.
“The guys here, they helped me a lot,” Montero said. “I always practiced the test with them to see if they were capable of passing that test or not. I will tell you, probably half of this team weren’t capable to do it.”
After passing the test, Montero saw Ryan Dempster, who grew up in Canada and now works as a special assistant for the Cubs: “I told him, ‘Hey, get out of my country.’”
Montero’s children, Angel and Camilla, were born in the U.S. and the family has a spectacular home in Paradise Valley outside Phoenix. The kid from Caracas has earned more than $70 million in his career, according to the salary database at Baseball-Reference.com, and will be remembered forever as part of The Team in Chicago.
“This country is full of opportunities,” Montero said. “I think all of us baseball players, we live the American dream. We’re playing a baseball game. We’re playing a sport that we love to play. We grew up always wanting to be in the big leagues. Now, we’re here, and we’re making a lot of money for what we love to do.
“We’re all living the American dream.”