Coaches Corner: Monte Lee


leem-cougars.jpgDiamond Spotlight: Monte Lee has spent the past six years wearing garnet and black, but on June 3 he traded in those colors for maroon and white. A standout player at the College of Charleston from 1996-1999, Lee had been the recruiting coordinator for the Gamecocks but now presides over the Cougars baseball program, his alma mater. Lee took some time for DP right after he took the head coaching position, in his Diamond Spotlight get to know more about him, his background and C of C.

DP-How many years have you been in coaching? What got you into the business?

ML-I have been coaching a total of eight years. Two years at Spartanburg Methodist, and six years at South Carolina. I got into coaching simply because it was always what I wanted to do. I never really thought about doing anything else.

DP-What is the most rewarding thing about being a baseball coach? 

ML-The most rewarding thing about being a coach is trying to get the most out of a young man’s talents. I think the best coaches build a level of confidence in a player to reach levels he didn’t think they could reach. Identifying a player’s strengths and weaknesses and helping him reach his potential is extremely rewarding.

DP-What does the term "coach" mean to you? 

ML-Coach to me means you are a teacher first. You teach a young man how to handle failure and prepare him to handle his successes. The best coaches know how to relate to each individual and gain their trust. Good coaches are great communicators and make their players feel like they can accomplish any task that comes their way.

DP-What is something you wish everyone knew about your profession? 

leemonte-maddie10.jpgML-Being a baseball coach is a way of life, it’s not a job. We put in a lot of hours trying to build our programs and there is a lot more to the profession than just practice and games. Coaches don’t live normal lives! We (with daughter Maddie during 2010 Regionals) work all year, there is no off-season and we are normal everyday people like anyone else. Most days the only time I see my children is in the morning before they go to school and hopefully I can talk to them before they go to bed at night. This profession will definitely give you a guilty conscious when it comes to trying to have a family life.

DP-We all know there is very little money in getting started in coaching at the college level yet the time involved is mind-boggling, why did you do it?

ML-I didn’t get into coaching to make money. I got a degree in college to be a teacher so that I could coach. When I started out, as long as I could pay my bills and have enough gas to get to the field I was happy! There’s nothing better than going to practice everyday or coaching in a baseball game. The thrill of victory is worth more than any amount of money you could make.

DP-Describe your coaching experience at USC, from how it began to some of your highlights while there.

ML-I don’t know if I could put into words my experience at USC. Coach Tanner offered me the volunteer job there two weeks after I had accepted the head coaching position at a 1A high school. I thought that I would settle down and be a high school coach for the rest of my life. In my first year there, we made it to the College World Series, and then again the next year. In my six years at USC I learned a tremendous amount about the game of baseball and how a successful program should be run. Working with coaches like Ray Tanner, Mark Calvi, Jim Toman, Jerry Meyers and Sammy Esposito was an awesome experience. They are the best in the business, and I hope that I can take some of things that I learned from them and apply it here at the College of Charleston.

DP-You have recently taken the top job at your alma mater, tell us what that means to you.

ML-It’s truly a blessing for me and my family. To get an opportunity to coach at the place you played is incredible. I never dreamed that something like this would have happened to me, so I feel extremely honored. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that I am a head coach, so I have been calling Coach Tanner a lot to get advice!

DP-When you hear the expression "old school baseball", what does that phrase mean to you? 

ML- "Old school" players take losing personal. They run full-speed down the line no matter where the ball is hit, play to the game situation and not for their stats. Old school players play hard and play to win. They don’t care about there stats, as long as the team wins. Old school players aren’t selfish, they put the team first and do anything they can to help the team win. Old school guys are mentally and physically tough. They get dirty, play when they’re not at 100 percent and come to the field to kick your rear end.

DP-What is the definition of a "student-athlete"? 

ML-Student comes first! Student-athletes understand that baseball isn’t going to last forever. You have to have good grades to get into college, and to get a good job one day. 97 percent of the guys that sign pro don’t make it to the big leagues, so you better get a degree. The guys that give 100 percent in the classroom generally excel and over-achieve on the field.

DP-What MLB feat in history do you wish you’d been inside the stadium to witness and why? 

ML-I don’t know if there is any particular feat I could point out, but I would have liked to have seen Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play on the same team back in the Murderer’s Row days of the 1920’s. I would have loved to have seen what the players back then looked like and how they played the game. I would have loved to seen Ty Cobb play as well.

DP-What is your most memorable experience as a baseball coach? 

ML-I don’t know, I have had some great ones. Going to Grand Junction in 2001 with Spartanburg Methodist, Omaha in 2003 and 2004. Watching Steve Pearce hit a home run in front of 23,000 people against Miami in the CWS stands out. Watching five consecutive home runs against Georgia in the 2006 Super Regional. Watching Virginia intentionally walk Justin Smoak with first base open to face Phil Disher in a regional game was great. He hit a ball at least 480 feet for a grand slam! To this day the farthest ball I have ever seen hit. I have a bunch of great experiences.

leem-pressconf08.jpgDP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball coach and why? 

ML-My high school coach Randy Stokes is one of them. Great coach and even greater person. If I had a son I would want him to play for Randy Stokes. One of the best people I know bar none. Ray Tanner has had a tremendous impact on my life, he’s a mentor to me and someone that I admire greatly. I will try my best to emulate Coach Tanner, he’s the best there is. The man that I started out coaching with who gave me my first opportunity was Tim Wallace. Spartanburg Methodist doesn’t know how good they have it there. He’s a great leader and coach. He’s forgotten more about baseball than I know and is an awesome person. I think these three guys are the best there is and they have made a huge impact on me. Mark Calvi has to mentioned in here too, he’s one of my best friends and someone I admire a great deal. The guy can coach pitchers, catchers, hitters you name it. Tell me how many guys are experts on those three?

DP-Who are the best three players you have ever coached against? 

ML-Matt LaPorta, Gordon Beckham, Aaron Hill. I took the safe route, all 1st rounders!

DP-What does it mean to be a good teammate and is that important? 

ML-Good teammates play together and care about each other on and off the field. A good teammate always tries to pick you up when you’re struggling and enjoys watching your success. Good teammates stick with you through everything.

DP-What do you see as the biggest difference in high school-aged players today versus when you played? 

ML-Definitely the amount of games they play now. A lot of kids play year round, we didn’t. We played two to three sports a year when I was growing up. A lot of kids now start specializing in one sport at an early age.

DP-Now switching gears, think back to your days as a baseball player, please list any notable accolades: 

ML-1993 AAA State Champion. The rest don’t matter all that much, but you always remember that one. I played in college and then a couple of years in pro ball, but that one is the one I am most proud of in terms of accomplishments.

DP-What is your greatest high school thrill? 

ML-Winning the state title for Lugoff-Elgin in 1993. I will never forget that as long as I live. I also remember my last game in the playoffs when we lost to Wren in 1995. I cried like a baby, we were a very close team that year and it affected me greatly. I am very proud of where I played my high school baseball.

DP-What is your greatest thrill, or two, beyond high school?

ML-We beat South Carolina on opening day my junior year in Columbia, and defeated NC State in Charleston my sophomore year. Those were great memories against two big schools. Being able to play four years of College baseball was an awesome experience, and two years in the minors was great too.

DP-Who were the three best players you played against? 

ML-Adam Everett, Brian Roberts, Kip Bouknight

DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why? 

ML-My mother. She’s tough as nails and never let me get away with anything. She works harder than anyone I know and I don’t know anyone who is tougher. She was mean as rattlesnake to me at times growing up, but looking back at how I behaved I deserved it! She taught me to stand up for myself, don’t take anything from anyone, and never quit. She taught me to act with proper manners and treat people the way you would want to be treated yourself.

DP-Who is you favorite athlete outside of baseball?

ML-Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. I was a huge boxing fan growing up and I loved watching those guys fight when I was a kid. I still watch old fights on ESPN Classic.

DP-Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player and why? 

ML-Position Player-Dale Murphy, great player and humble guy. He carried himself with great dignity and let his play speak for itself. Pitcher-Greg Maddux, unbelievable pitchability and longevity. Incredible movement and baseball IQ

DP-Who is your favorite MLB team? 

ML-Atlanta Braves

DP-What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball? 


DP-What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball? 

ML-College Football and UFC are tied for me     

DP-What are some of your hobbies? 

ML-I love to hunt and fish when I get time. I also love to lift weights.

DP-What is something people don’t know about you? 

ML-That I am just a normal guy like anyone else.

DP-If you could have dinner with three people in history, who would they be and why?     

ML-Casey Stengel– Incredible baseball manager and personality. Franklin D. Roosevelt– One of the greatest leaders of all-time, carried the weight of the country on his shoulders in our most prosperous and patriotic time. Muhammed Ali-One of the most important sports figure of all-time and eccentric thinker. All three are geniuses and the best at what they did.

leemonte-head10.jpgDP-Where do you see yourself in ten years? 

ML-Hopefully coaching right here at the College of Charleston.

DP-What is your opinion on the new rules that the NCAA recently adopted in regards to roster limitations, the APR and the 25% scholarship rule?

ML-We only get 11.7 if we are one of the lucky schools that are fully-allotted, so let us spend our scholarships how we want. If we can carry a maximum of 35 on our rosters that’s fine, but let us scholarship all of them if we want, or just 20 if we want! This is America isn’t it? If a kid wants to go to a school for 5%, 50% or no percent that’s his business. Not the NCAA’s. If they are going to mandate how much we can give a kid, then give us more money! I think the APR is tough on baseball, but it’s something we all have to deal with. It definitely makes us push our kids to do well in the classroom and graduate.

DP-Give a high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice. 

ML-Play hard and play with confidence. If you can’t handle failure you will never make it in this game. Great players stay even keel at all times and have short memories.

DP-Thanks a ton for your time, congratulations on your recruiting class and getting off to a great start.