By Emily Waldon
West Michigan Whitecaps fans have a knack for smelling victory and this particular steamy evening in May was no exception.
Starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford had just wrapped up six masterfully thrown innings and pitching coach Mike Henneman was looking for just one thing.
With a motion to the bullpen, relief pitcher Montreal Robertson came trotting out to the hill.
Observations of Robertson’s demeanor displayed no stress regarding the responsibility that had just been entrusted to him.
“I don’t even worry about him walking people,” Henneman said. “He’s changing up his delivery and feeling comfortable. He really wants it and I want it for him.”
Henneman’s gut feeling was correct. Robertson went on to throw two solid innings, contributing to the eventual 4-2 victory.
Believe it or not, the McGhee, Arkansas, native has not always been a pitcher.
Robertson recalls being a curious 12 year old outfielder who decided during a break in practice to try his feel for pitching.
“I walked out to the mound and just started throwing at the plate,” he said. “Coach came up and said, ‘You wanna try pitching?’ That’s where it started.”
As the progression to his skill accelerated, the varsity coaching staff looked on as Robertson began his senior year by routinely hitting 94 miles per hour and they started making phone calls.
“The scouts started coming around that year,” he said. “They didn’t believe my coach saying a little country boy from Arkansas was really throwing 94 miles per hour. They were skeptical and came to see what it was all about.”
A new challenge surfaced the following year with Tommy John surgery that November.
The surgery has been known to kill motivation, but to Robertson, he saw it as a battle worth fighting.
“I realized how much I do love this game,” he said. “I worked my butt off and I got drafted.”
The results have been nothing short of praise worthy.
He is quick to attribute a large reason for his success to his biggest fan.
“My mom has always been there for me,” he said. “I would look up in the stands and she might have been wrapped up in a blanket, but she would be up there. This is a dream for me, but it’s a dream for her too. She would say, ‘Throw that ball, Montreal.’ And I would. I live by that.”
Robertson has returned to West Michigan this year as a much healthier addition to the bullpen maintaining a four seam fastball that has been known to hit as high as 98 miles per hour. The reliever has found his stride and his coaches could not be more pleased.
“He’s funny and he’s a great kid”, Henneman said with a chuckle. “We get ready and he’s the first one out; gets right out there and starts analyzing everything with me.”
An enthusiasm and work ethic portrayed by Robertson leave no room for doubt regarding the level of admiration that he embodies for the game he has been so fortunate to be a part of.
“If I’m not nervous before I throw, than something’s wrong,” he said. “It comes from a respect for the game. Your best stuff against his best swing. You hope your best stuff comes out on top.”
While we don’t see his momentum slowing down anytime soon, Robertson does have several post-baseball plans ahead. The fishing enthusiast hopes to start coaching some day and possibly expanding his clearly evident cooking skill.
“Montreal’s Southern porkchops,” he chuckled. “Yeah, I like the sound of that.”
We have to admit, we do too.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org