Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoya at Moonlights Salsa Clubs

Salsa’s band were in Lula Lounge’s first set 45 minutes later, last Saturday, when Charlie Montoyo appeared at the front door. The owner of the music club noticed Montoya and led him and his band to the table closest to them on stage.

Montoya, 56, took off his jacket and shook hands with members of the group who knew him. A few minutes later, Montoya, the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays – one of the top teams in the major league baseball team – was there with the band and handed over Guiro, a major piece of Latin American music. A smile remained on his face for the next two and a half hours.

“Tonight we are accompanied by our great manager Blue Jays,” Luis Franco, the band ‘s lead singer by his name, told an audience in Spanish. He motioned for Montoya to join him in front of the stage and continued: “This guy is doing a flawless job with our team. Applause, please. “

Montoyo stepped forward, hugged Franco, smiled, and pointed at the people. But he quickly returned to his desired position: with the band members, among the instruments.

Baseball may have been the driving force behind Montoya’s life, but music was a major blow. His stadium office is overcrowded with bongos, congas, tambourines, maracas and records. He plays salsa music to relax before the games. And sometimes, he spends weekends during the season accompanying groups to nightclubs with a guitar, an instrument that emits a sound like a hollow pumpkin.

“Jumping on Charlie’s stage was our whole relationship,” Montoya’s wife, Sam, said in a recent telephone interview. “I remember looking up at our wedding after talking to people and he was on stage with the band.”

The square blue jays are a varied and lively bouquet. As the player homages, his teammates rush to pick him up a blue jacket featuring the names of many countries represented on the team, from Canada to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and South Korea.

Montoyo is their noisy leader, though it took him a long time to get here. After 18 highly successful years at Tampa Bay Rays’s juvenile management and four years under head coaching, he finally got the chance to lead Toronto in 2019.

He picked up a promising but restored roster and took them to the playoffs in 2020. The Blue Jays avoided a second appearance last season with one win, but entered in 2022 as the choice for the popular pre-season world series. By Wednesday they were 33-23.

For Montoya, every step was a soundtrack to Salsa.

“He was phenomenal,” Ross Atkins, general manager of Blue Jays, said of Montoya. “His experience has always been attractive to me personally. His small league experience, his playing experience, his cultural experience. He was exactly what we had hoped for by hiring him, and then a few. ”

In Puerto Rico, a small Florida town, Montoyo grew up around Salsa and baseball. After a four-match call-up to the Montreal Expo in 1993 and 1,028 junior games, Montoyo retired and began a coaching career.

“I 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 become a musician. But I was slowly playing more and more. And I love Salsa. But now, yes, I’ll be happy to be a musician. “

Unlike the brothers, Montoyo never took music lessons and did not join a school band. Growing up, he learned music organically. In Parranda, a Puerto Rican tradition that resembles Christmas carols at night, he helped play door-to-door on maracas, guiros, or tambourines. At beach gatherings he watched others play the Konga and took it upon himself.

Montoyo has a large collection of instruments at its permanent residence in Tucson, Ariz, and office in the center of Rogers, which is also an equal part of the shrine of Puerto Rico and Salsa. His wife surprised him with an autographed painting by his favorite musician, Herman Olivera, and a new Konga set for the office after he was hired in Toronto.

Montoyo said meeting or getting to know some of his musical heroes – such as Roberto Roena, Oscar Hernandez, Eddie Palmier and Olivera – meant more to him than meeting many famous baseball players.

During spring training in 2019, Montoyo hosted an impromptu performance at his office in Florida, Dunedin, with singer Mark Anthony, whose entertainment company has a baseball agency representing Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Salsa classics by Willie Colon and Hector Lavoie, while Montoyo handled Bongo. Other members of the Blue Jays coaching staff joined in from Puerto Rico.

(On the night of Montoya’s last visit to Lula Lounge, he sent Anthony a video of his performance. “Wow,” wrote Anthony. “What a swing.Papito. I love. Make me a day. ”)

Montoyo often runs jam sessions. Once he invited several musicians from the club to his office and they played until 4am, but most of the time Montoya is alone, watching music videos on TV and playing with him a few hours before the game.

“We are in a competitive sport and the position he is in puts a lot of pressure and attention on him from the moment he leaves the club,” said Hector LeBron, a 44-year-old Blue Jesse translator who played for Montoya. Tampa Bay Small League player. He uses music to relax and think a little.

Montoyo first played at Lula Lounge in 2019. In May, during a batting practice, he met several musicians from the club who learned about his musical abilities through mutual friends. In their conversation, Luis “Luisito” Orbegoso, a famous local artist, said that he could say that Montoyo knew what he was talking about and invited him to the club that night. Montoyo came and played and thus began their friendship.

“When he’s in Toronto, he calls me and asks, ‘When are we going to play? When are we going Noise“” – said Orbegoso, 51, who was born in Peru and moved to Canada when he was 12 years old. We are pure salsa. ”

Lula Lounge was one of Montoya’s most lacking in Toronto from 2020 to 2021, when Canadian pandemic border restrictions forced the Blue Jays to play most of their home games at the Buffalo and Spring Exercise Facility in Florida.

“She has a house here,” said Jose Ortega, co-owner of Lula Lounge, who began hosting salsa dance lessons at his apartment in Toronto in 2000, before moving to a permanent restaurant and club two years later. Jose Nievs. “We see him as another member of the group.”

Montoyo has played a total of six times on Lula Lounge, including twice this season after Saturday afternoon home games. He often goes with team officials or coaches and brought his wife when he visits from Arizona, where he stays during the school year with their youngest son. Montoyo is tired on the day of his last visit – the Blue Jays have been in the middle of 20 games in a row – but the club is his escape.

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

So after the Blue Jays defeated the Houston Astros – the game from which Montoyo was sent off for a third shot called by Guerrero in the fifth innings – he was in Lula Lounge with Luis Franco Worldwide Salsa.

“We call him the swing,” said Alex Naar, a 42-year-old percussionist who gave Montoyao a gyro and led him to a more modern arrangement. “He has a natural vibration towards music. Feels in the heart. It has a rhythm. ”

After the first set, Montoya took photos with several fans. While the DJ was playing salsa and reggaeton classics, Montoyo stepped onto an empty stage and played a kong along with the song. And when the band returned to the second set, he rejoined them.

“Baseball is very Caribbean,” said Ortega, who was born in Ecuador and raised in New York. “This is Puerto Rico, this is Dominican, Venezuelan and the whole rhythm, style and panacea that Latinos bring into the game. This atmosphere, it somehow goes together. So to me, when Charlie was there, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a ridiculous, perfect marriage.’

In all aspects of his life, Montoyo sought to portray his island, from field to scene.

“It is difficult to reach this level,” he said of his work. “I sincerely never expected to achieve it after so many years. That’s why I have the Puerto Rican flag on my glove everywhere. “I’m proud of where I come from and the music.”

Not long after midnight, Montoyo finished the few songs left in the second set of his last visit to the Lula Lounge. He returned the gyro to Naar, hugged her and said goodbye. He did not want to go, but the Blue Jays had a match at 13:00. He took off his jacket and went with the team members who came with him. He will return.

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