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Hard work carried Montero from Venezuela to bigs

PHOENIX -- Miguel Montero cuts off the question before it is fully out of the reporter's mouth.

Yes, he was signed out of a tryout camp in Venezuela and there were teams that did not think he was a prospect, but don't suggest that his story is about a player who came out of nowhere to make the Majors.

"I came out of hard work," Montero says proudly.

Baseball is joining in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the tremendous impact of players from all over Latin America has been felt with every Major League team.

Growing up in Venezuela, Montero dreamed of being a big league player. He admired fellow Venezuelans who were in the Majors like Omar Vizquel, Andres Galarraga and Luis Salazar.

And along the way, his father, Angel, provided encouragement.

"Obviously, I wanted to be a baseball player," Montero said. "I love being a baseball player. If I were to be born again, I would love to be a baseball player again and be a catcher again."

Montero was signed by the D-backs' vice president of Latin Operations, Junior Noboa, for $13,000 in 2001.

"I wanted to follow that dream," Montero said. "Junior gave me the chance -- no one else would give me a chance. I knew that it was probably going to be a lot of work, because I didn't have as much talent as some other guys, as many tools as other guys. I knew I had a long way to go, and I knew I had to prove myself."

It wasn't smooth sailing for Montero, who did not put up big numbers in his first taste of pro ball, but during those struggles, it was apparent he had something that would serve him well in his career: He had self-confidence.

"I never thought about failure," Montero said. "I never thought about other guys being better than me. I just thought that if they did it, so could I. I just worked my butt off every day, and I still do. I knew that I could do it, because I loved the game, I played with passion and worked hard. I always knew that I could hit. I never doubt that, even when I hit .220 in the Dominican Summer League."

Montero came to the United States to play in the Minor Leagues in 2002. Along with improving on the diamond, he had a plan for his life away from the ballpark.

Learning to speak English was a priority for him.

"When I first came to the United States, I knew it was going to be hard to make it to the big leagues, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity I had to learn the language," Montero said. "Because if I learned the language, I might be able to find a job somewhere else because I'd be bilingual. Then, second, I thought it would help me be a good teammate and a good guy in the organization, so if I didn't make it to the big leagues, maybe I could get a job as a coach or a scout, something in baseball."

And as a catcher, Montero wanted to make sure that he could communicate with his pitchers.

It was a process, but Montero now speaks English well and serves as a translator for Spanish-speaking teammates when needed.

"I taught myself English," he said. "I always liked the language and wanted to learn it. My personality is to always be talking and I never was shy, so I think that was the key for me. Even when guys would laugh at me for my accent or how my English was, I never cared because I knew my English was getting better."

Montero recently signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension, and he has plans to start a charitable foundation.

"God has blessed me with so much," Montero said. "I just want to help others."

He tries to serve as a mentor for other Latin ballplayers, taking them under his wing during Spring Training and sharing the lessons that he has learned.

"When I came to my first Spring Training, we didn't have that many Latin players in the big leagues," Montero said. "I just try to guide them, show them how things work, encourage them."

Arizona Diamondbacks, Miguel Montero