Montalbano, a Westborough, MA native, was drafted by his hometown Boston Red Sox in 1999 after a great college career at Northeastern University. He made his professional debut in 2000, finishing the season with a pair of starts with the Spinners.
The following season, Montalbano won 12 games and earned a midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton. He was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year by the Red Sox organization and appeared to be on the fast track for Boston.
Montalbano had overcome testicular cancer as a freshman at Northeastern in 1996 and the removal of several non-cancerous tumors in the years that followed. After arm injuries side-tracked his Red Sox career, he found himself pitching for the Worcester Tornadoes, when he learned that the cancer had returned again.
A fighter, Montalbano continued to pitch while undergoing treatments, serving as a volunteer coach at St. John’s High School and a South End baseball team, and as a volunteer, he educated high school and college students about testicular cancer.
His interview aired on WEEI during the 2008 Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon can be heard here
Montalbano passed away Aug. 21, 2009 and the Spinners are honored to continue his legacy.
With the first of what will become annual award, the Spinners and Montalbano's family selected Northeastern University assistant coach Patrick Mason as the inaugural award winner.
“[Mason] was Greg’s catcher at Northeastern,” said Spinners Vice President for Communications Jon Goode. “They had a strong connection on the diamond and with the work Patrick does in both the New England baseball community and community as a whole, he was a great selection by the Montalbano family for this award.” .
After speaking with Mason following the announcement of the award, it became clear that the two were more than just battery-mates, but teammates and, more importantly, friends.
"It is truly an honor to be named the first recipient of the Greg Montalbano Award. Greg was an incredible person who held himself to the highest of standards."
"Greg dedicated his life to helping others, whether it was making a sick child smile and feel comfortable, teaching the game of baseball to less fortunate kids, being a good friend, or the countless other ways in which he helped people, Greg always put others before him."
Mason served as the catcher at Northeastern from 1994 to 1997 and was team captain during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He currently serves as Northeastern's pitching coach and also works with infielders and catchers in his current role.
He was an assistant coach at Framingham State in 2004 after four years with Boston College. For the summers of 2003-’06, he was a coach with the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League.
"Greg Montalbano had such a positive impact on so many peoples lives, to know that the Montalbano family and the Lowell Spinners feel I am a worthy of an award in Greg's name is the ultimate compliment.
Mason will be presented with a plaque commemorating the award at the Spinners Alumni Dinner on Dec. 29. Montalbano's former teammate and current Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis will also be present at the dinner.
In the game following Montalbano's death, Youkilis wore the initials GM on his cap in honor of his fallen Red Sox brother and proceeded to hit two home runs and drive in six runs in a 14-1 rout of the Yankees.
On the same day but 1,500 miles to the south of Fenway, Montalbano’s former Northeastern teammate, Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena, went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a walk-off single. Pena, a native of Haverhill, MA had a sign that said "That was for you, Monty."
Mason feels that Montalbano would be a bit embarrassed knowing of the award in his honor, but feels he would be proud knowing what the award stood for.
"Helping people is what Greg did," he explained. "And knowing his award was to honor others who do the same would make him happy. As far as me as the first winner, I'm sure he would have a good joke to tell, everyone who knew Greg knows that his sense of humor was second to none."
Mason and Montalbano met in the summer of 1995 while playing for the Milford, MA town team that played in the AAABA national tournament in Johnstown, PA, prior to rejoining again at Northeastern.
"He was an awesome teammate, who inspired everyone who wore the same uniform. He could make everyone laugh at the most inappropriate times while he managed to keep a straight face, yet he was the most fierce competitor you have ever seen."
Mason added, "When the game was on the line, Greg wanted the ball and we wanted him to have it."
"Off the field, Greg was as good of a friend as someone could ever have. The type of friend who would take time out of his busy spring training schedule to go out to dinner with me and a player I was coaching at BC who had been recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. He did this because he knew he could help.
"(He was) the type of friend, who would leave his buddy front row tickets to a road game in Norwich, because he knew I was going on a date that night and it would help me impress her."
"And the type of friend who would stop by my office or the field and hang out after spending the morning at Dana Farber and help me plan practice.
"Greg was a dear friend and I think he would be happy that his friend was the first winner."
For more information on the Alumni event, please contact Jon Boswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-805-5117.
The previous story uses excerpts from a press-release by the Lowell Spinners. Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award winning children's story that teaches kindness and sharing through baseball.