Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo moonlight at Salsa Clubs

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo moonlight at Salsa Clubs

Salsa 45 minutes before their first set at the Lula Lounge, Charlie Montoyo appeared at the front door last Saturday. The owner of the music club saw Montoyon and took him and his band to the table closest to them for the stage.

Montoyo, 56, took off his jacket and waved to members of the group he knew. A few minutes later, Montoyo, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, was there with the band and was given a guiro, a key element of Latin American music. For the next two and a half hours, a smile appeared on his face.

“Tonight we are accompanied by our senior manager of Blue Jays,” Luis Franco, the lead singer of the group bearing his name, told the audience in Spanglish. In front of the stage, he motioned for Montoya to join him and continued: “This guy is doing a great job with our team. Please give a round of applause. ”

Montoyo stepped forward, hugged Franco, smiled, and waved to the crowd. However, he soon returned to his preferred position: with the members of the group, between the instruments.

Baseball may have been the driving force behind Montoyo’s life, but music has been a major hit. His stadium office is full of bongos, congas, timbales, maracas and records. Salsa music is played to relax before the games. And sometimes he spends his weekends in nightclubs with a whistling instrument in nightclubs.

“Charlie’s throwing on stage has become our whole relationship,” Montoyo’s wife, Sam, said in a telephone interview. “I remember raising my head after talking to people at our wedding, and he’s on stage with the band.”

On the field, Blue Jays are a diverse and lively band. After one player Homers, his teammates rush to buy him a blue jacket with the names of many countries represented in the team, from Canada to the Dominican Republic, from Cuba to South Korea.

Montoyo is their noisy leader, although it took him a long time to get to that point. After 18 highly successful years and four years of coaching for minors for the Tampa Bay Rice, he finally got a chance to manage Toronto in 2019.

He captured a promising but rebuilt roster and led it to the 2020 playoffs. The Blue Jays didn’t win another postseason appearance last season, but entered 2022 as a pre-season World Series selection. Until Wednesday, they were 33-23.

For Montoyo, there was a soundtrack salsa at every step.

“He was phenomenal,” Blue Jays CEO Ross Atkins said of Montoyo. “His experiences have always been attractive to me personally. His little league experiences, game experiences, cultural experiences. He was exactly what we had hoped for when he hired him, and then some.

Montoyo, from a small Florida town in Puerto Rico, grew up around salsa and baseball. After a four-game challenge with Montreal Expos in 1993 and 1,028 games for the juniors, Montoyo retired and began his coaching career.

“I’ve always wanted to be a baseball player,” he said as he sat in his office at Rogers Center in Toronto. “I never thought I would be a musician. But I slowly played more. And I love salsa. But now, yes, I would like to be a musician. ”

Unlike his brothers, Montoyo never took music lessons or joined a school orchestra. As he grew up, he learned music organically. It is like singing a Christmas song at night in a Puerto Rican traditional bird, playing the Maracas, guiro, or tambourine as you go door-to-door. At beach meetings, he watched others play the conga and picked it up himself.

Montoyo has a large collection of tools at his permanent residence in Tucson, Arizona, and his office at Rogers Center. His wife surprised him with a new set of cones for the office after he was hired by his favorite musician, Herman Olivera’s signature official, and Toronto.

According to Montoyo, meeting or getting to know some musical heroes like Roberto Roena, Oscar Hernández, Eddie Palmieri and Olivera means more to him than meeting many famous baseball players.

During spring training in 2019, Montoyo made an impromptu performance with singer Marc Enthony, a baseball agency representing the first base player of the Blue Jays star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., at an entertainment company in Dunedin, Florida. Anthony sang the salsa classic “Aguanile” by Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, and Montoyo conducted the bongos. Other members of the Blue Jays coaching staff from Puerto Rico also joined the effort.

(On the night of Montoyo’s last visit to the Lula Lounge, he texted Anthony with a video of his performance. “Wow,” Anthony replied. “What a swing.papito. I love it. He made my day. ”)

Montoyo often holds jam sessions. He once invited several musicians from the club to his office, and they played until 4 in the morning, but often Montoyo listened to music videos on TV a few hours before the game and played together.

“We are a competitive sport and his position comes with a lot of pressure and attention from the moment he enters the clubhouse,” said Hector Lebron, 44, a Blue Jays translator who plays in Montoyo. Tampa Bay junior league player. “Uses music to relax and think a little.”

Montoyo played for the first time in 2019 at the Lula Lounge. During a pre-match kick training session in May, he met some musicians from the club who had heard about his musical ability through mutual friends. Well-known local artist Luis “Luisito” Orbegoso said in a conversation that he could tell Montoya what he knew and invited him to the club that night. Montoyo came and played, and this began their friendship.

“When he was in Toronto, he called me and asked when we were going to play. When will we go? rumors“” 51-year-old Orbegoso, who was born in Peru and moved to Canada at the age of 12, said. In the winter, including off-season, he keeps in touch with me and sends videos. If we keep it clean. “

Lula Lounge was one of Montoyo’s most missed things about Toronto from 2020 to 2021, when Canada’s pandemic border restrictions forced the Blue Jays to play most of their home games at spring training bases in Buffalo and Florida.

“He has a house here,” said Jose Ortega, owner of Lula Lounge, which began hosting salsa dance classes at his Toronto apartment in 2000, before it became a permanent restaurant and club he co-owned two years later. Jose Nieves. “We see him almost as a member of another group.”

Montoyo has played just six times at the Lula Lounge, including twice this season after home games on Saturday afternoon. He often goes with team officials or coaches and brings his wife with her young son to visit Arizona, where he stays during the school year. Montoyo was tired on the day of his last trip – the Blue Jays were right in the middle of a 20-day game – but the club is his run.

“If Sam knows it’s Saturday and we’ve lost a tough game and I’m alone in the apartment, he tells me to go there and have fun,” Montoyo said.

Thus, after the Blue Jays defeated the Houston Astros – Montoyo was sent off in the fifth shot for arguing with Guerrero on the third shot – he was in Lula Lounge with Luis Franco Worldwide Salsa.

“We call it a swing,” said Alex Naar, 42, the band’s drummer, who gave Montoya a guiro and guided him through more modern arrangements. “He has a natural swing for music. He feels it in his heart. He has a rhythm. “

After the first set, Montoyo took a photo with several fans. While the DJ played salsa and reggaeton classics, Montoyo took to the empty stage to play the conga with the song. When the group returned for the second set, he rejoined them.

“Baseball is very much the Caribbean,” said Ortega, who was born in Ecuador and grew up in New York. “It’s all the rhythm, style and laziness that Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Latinos bring to the game. It’s a vibe, kind of going together. To me, when Charlie was there, I thought, “Wow, this is a ridiculous, perfect marriage.”

Montoyo has tried to represent the island in all areas of his life, from the field to the stage.

“It is difficult to reach this level,” he said. “I did not expect to achieve this after so many years. That’s why I have the Puerto Rican flag everywhere in my glove. I’m from where I am and I’m proud of the music. “

Less than midnight, the second set of his last visit to the Lula Lounge left a few songs, and Montoyo was finished. Guiro returned to Naara, hugged him and said goodbye. He didn’t want to leave, but the Blue Jays had a game at 1 p.m. He took off his jacket and left with a team of incoming workers. He will return.

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