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Monell Might Make It To Dad's Field Of Dreams
By DAN MARTIN
May 20, 2005
If Johnny Monell gets drafted high enough that he passes up junior college and goes straight to the pros, he thinks he will have an advantage over many of his teammates.
"I'm not going to be intimidated by pro ball," said Monell, a senior catcher at Columbus H.S. "I know what it's about."
That's the attitude you can develop after shagging fly balls off the bat of Ruben Sierra, having a catch with Roberto Alomar and soft-tossing with Jim Thome, all of which Monell has done, thanks to his father's 17-year minor league career.
"He always wanted to come to the park with me," said Monell's father, also Johnny, who signed as a free agent with the Mets after graduating from Theodore Roosevelt in The Bronx. "He saw right away the work ethic that it took to make it in baseball."
And not just from the major leaguers Monell was around when his dad played winter ball in Puerto Rico or later in the minors with teams like the Atlantic City Surf, where he was a teammate of Sierra's.
The elder Monell, now 42 and a high school coach at Holy Spirit in Absecon, N.J., got all the way to Triple A in 1987. He blew his knee out two seasons later and never reached the majors.
"Getting there was a goal of mine," the elder Monell said. "But I don't have any regrets at all. Many guys don't last 17 years."
Or travel to as many remote outposts to keep a career alive.
Monell Sr. played in Taiwan and Italy as he tried to get back with a major league organization, which he did briefly when the Rangers signed him during baseball's work stoppage in 1995.
"I had to make money, so I played anywhere I could," Monell said. "You make adjustments."
While he's satisfied now that his playing days are over, Monell hopes that his son can do better.
"It's sort of like a replay," Monell said. "But I didn't have the attention or all the scouts coming to The Bronx to see me. I think he has more power than I did at his age."
A major league scout who saw them both in high school agrees.
"Johnny is probably a little bit stronger than his dad was," the scout said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bronx resident. "And his dad played the outfield, so the fact that Johnny is such a good catcher will help."
The son also is confident that he'll be able to take the extra step that the father could not.
"I told him I'm going to be better than he was," Monell said with a laugh. He's hitting .694 with five homers and has been invited to pre-draft workouts at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. "But I've seen from him how hard it is to make it, so I know what I have to do to get there."
For now, Monell is focused on the PSAL playoffs. Because several teammates were left off the team, Monell recently volunteered to play shortstop, where head coach Pete Nizzari said he has played flawlessly.
"That's just the kind of kid he is," Nizzari said. "He's been on the field all his life, so he's comfortable everywhere."