Becoming a good baseball player is a tall task in and of itself, but my money is on catcher being the most difficult position for a young player to learn. Not only must they learn to play defense, but they must also become an expert handler of a pitching staff, all while trying to master their own hitting. Thus, it is little wonder that teams covet skilled receivers so much. While the San Francisco Giants already have star catcher Buster Posey, the horrific injury he suffered last year showed how important it is to have depth, and Johnny Monell is being counted on to assume that role.
Monell picked up baseball from his father Johnny, who had a 15 year professional career in the minors, Mexican, and independent leagues as an outfielder. However, the younger Monell chose his own path, becoming a lefty hitting catcher while growing up in the Bronx. By the time he graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in 2005 he was being tracked by major league teams and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 27th round of that year’s draft, but he decided to attend Seminole Community College in Florida instead of signing. The next year the Mets took him in the 49th round, but he again declined to sign. Finally, after the Giants chose him in the 30th round in 2007, he signed and began his professional career.
Defense is the strongest part of Monell’s game, though he has also shown some pop in his bat. His best season came in 2010, when he hit a combined .273 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI between High-A and Triple-A. He is playing this season in Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and trying to prove that he is ready for the majors. He has started slowly at the plate, hitting just .196 with 4 home runs, but has been playing his typical stellar defense and even mixing in some games at first base. For more information on his statistics, please check out here.
I had a chance to touch base with Monell before this season. It’s obvious that he loves his career and is looking forward to seeing if he can earn his way to the majors. If you want to keep up with him as he continues his season, make sure to follow him on Twitter.
Johnny Monell Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: I would have to say the New York Yankees; just living blocks from the stadium at a very young age. I grew up in the Bronx. They always had great players to come in and play, plus the old Yankee Stadium was a cathedral of baseball.
Your dad played professional baseball for many years; can you talk about the experiences you had because of that?: Wow, there’s so many. Basically, growing up in clubhouse all over and having him around helps me a lot. I ask him lots of questions and he always talks about his former teammates. But I would say having him on my side is awesome. He is someone who has seen a lot throughout his career and being able to pass down tips and just being able to talk about the game.
Can you describe what your draft experience was like?: Well, after being drafted three times, it was a matter of knowing and self evaluating if I was ready to play pro ball. I would say the first time I was drafted in 2005, it was awesome, just because not too many kids from the inner city or even the Bronx get seen! Scouts hardly came. That year we had some really good ball players that got drafted or looked at to go to good universities. It was a blessing and a humbling experience.
How did you make the decision to not sign the first two times you were drafted?: Just knowing if I was ready. Having my dad kind of helped with my decision. Getting my education done was really big, especially with my mom saying how school is important. So I decided to go ahead and go to college and it simply worked out. Two drafts later I have my degree and had some solid years playing pro bal,l so everything just came together and worked out great!
What steps do you take to provide more off-field comfort during the minor league season (food, toys, anything else to keep you sane and not bored, etc…)?: Haha. I try to keep up with the latest movies, shows, and music, so my Hulu and Netflix accounts get abused!!
Who has been your most influential coach or manager?: Wow, that’s a very hard question! Very hard! There have been so many coaches that I have been around and that I’ve worked with. I would have to say Brian Harper and Tom Trebelhorn, and may he rest in peace, Buddy Paine. He was a scout when I was in high school, and he put us inner city kids on the map. He did a lot for us, and I will never forget that man!
What do you think you need to work on the most to best prepare you for the major leagues?: I would say just to be a consistent all around player, whether it’s defense or hitting. But I know defensively is where I need to get better, and I know I have been. I just have to continue to make strides and show people I can play at the major league level.
How much do you think about whether you will make the major leagues one day?: I think about it every day. I want that opportunity. I’m hungry!!! I want to play at the highest level of baseball. It’s a dream and it’s a goal, and I will continue to work hard to deserve that opportunity and help a team win!