The New York Yankees thought they had their catcher of the future when Jesus Montero debuted in 2011.
The old guard of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and the other veterans wouldn’t be around forever. Montero, the presumed heir to legendary Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, appeared to have a bright future in New York.
Almost a decade later, the former top prospect is out of baseball, and an ice cream sandwich played a major role in his downfall.
Jesus Montero was a top catching prospect for the Yankees
Not even Aaron Judge generated as much hype among Yankee fans as Jesus Montero did in the early 2010s.
The Yankees themselves had high hopes for the power-hitting catcher from Venezuela. As he continued to dominate minor league pitching, Yankees fans wondered when the team would finally give the top prospect an opportunity in the majors.
On Sept. 1, 2011, that chance came when he made his MLB debut against the rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. In 18 games as a rookie, Montero hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He also went 2-for-2 with an RBI in two playoff games against the Detroit Tigers.
Jorge Posada, the legendary Yankees backstop, retired after the 2011 season. Although Russell Martin earned All-Star honors behind the plate that year, it appeared Montero would either compete for the starting catching role or serve as the backup in 2012.
But in January 2012, everything changed when the Yankees traded Montero to the Seattle Mariners. In return, the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda, an intimidating starting pitcher with an overpowering fastball.
Montero had an underwhelming tenure with the Mariners
The Seattle Mariners thought they had acquired their catcher of the future in Montero, who played all of the 2012 season at 22 years old. Although the talented catcher hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs to open his Mariners career, he lacked plate discipline and didn’t immediately live up to the lofty expectations.
Things only got worse from there, and the Mariners demoted Montero to the minor leagues midway through the 2013 season. While in the minors, he received a 50-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He ended his second season in Seattle with a .208 average and three home runs in 29 games.
Any hopes of a bounceback season in 2014 expired when, according to NBC Sports, he reported to spring training 40 pounds overweight. The Mariners kept him in the minor leagues for most of that year, and that’s where things really went downhill.
While rehabbing from an oblique injury in August 2014, Montero coached first base for the Boise Hawks, a Mariners minor league affiliate. A Mariners scout reportedly yelled at the injured catcher to run off the field, then ordered an ice cream sandwich and had it sent to him in the dugout.
Not pleased with the gesture or the implied insult about his weight, Montero grabbed a baseball bat and headed toward the stands. He threw the sandwich at the scout and yelled expletives before an opposing coach restrained him. Seattle suspended Montero for the remainder of the season and parted ways with the scout.
Montero’s professional baseball career might be over
Montero returned to the majors in 2015, hitting .223 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 38 games. By that point, he was long removed from being thought of as a future All-Star catcher.
The Mariners designated him for assignment in March 2016, and he spent that season in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system. The Baltimore Orioles kept him in the minors during the 2017 season until they released him that June.
Most recently, the now-31-year-old went hitless in 17 at-bats for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League’s 2020-21 season. It is not impossible for Montero to make an improbable comeback and reach the majors again, but the odds are certainly against him.