By Steve Serby
Rookie Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery took aim at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What makes you believe that you belong?
A: When you’re striking out [Evan] Longoria — he’s such a great player … you don’t strike him out and not belong, is what I’ve been telling myself. Everyone’s saying like, you can get here, and then when you stick, you stick because you know you belong and that’s when you keep working. [Michael] Pineda was telling me … you can’t be content with getting here. When you get here and you stop working someone else is gonna take your spot, because they’re down there working. I’m gonna keep trying to get better every outing.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
A: Probably people telling me I’m not good enough. Coming out of high school, they had all these diamond prospects blah blah blah blah blah, rankings. … I was like fourth best lefty out of South Carolina, something like that. But I was tabbed to be a lefty specialist at [the University of] South Carolina. I knew I was better than that, didn’t let it get to me, and my brothers were huge for me, telling me not to let it get in my head, to just keep working, and prove me wrong. … I’m in the big leagues now (smile).
Q: Do you still carry that chip on your shoulder?
A: I still pitch like I do. I know what I am, and I know I’m good enough. I know I work hard enough and all that goes with it. But I guess you say kind of I do.
Q: What is you mound mentality?
A: Just try and be as aggressive as I can. Be in attack mode the whole time I’m out there, and just go after the hitters, not try and nibble, but just trust my work, trust my preparation and if I do it right the ball’s gonna go where it’s supposed to. If you’re touchy-feels with it, the wheels are gonna come off quick.
Q: Why does manager Joe Girardi uses the word “deception” when talking about you?
A: I’m over the top. That’s rare, I guess. I hide the ball. I spin the ball pretty well, four-seam. … I guess those are the three things I have going for me.
Q: If you could pick the brain of one pitcher in history, who would you pick?
A: I don’t know. … I got to talk to Andy Pettitte a good bit during spring training. That was one of my guys growing up. I was a huge basketball fan growing up.
Q: You’re 6-foot-6. Did you think about an NBA career?
A: No (laugh). I was a fat white kid that could only shoot when I played in eighth grade.
Q: You were fat?
A: I was a 13-year-old kid, hadn’t hit a growth spurt. Grew 6 inches in my eighth grade summer, went into high school 6-1. So, it spread out after that.
Q: What was that like adapting to that growth spurt?
A: Got a lot of the new clothes. Still wore hand-me-downs, but they didn’t fit quite as well.
A: I have two older brothers, so I wore their old clothes, their old polos. We all ended up wearing the same size, so I would bun off them, wear their same shirts.
Q: Who is one hitter in history you would have liked to face?
A: David Ortiz, probably. That was one guy I really wanted to come up and face last year. But I missed him by a year (smile).
Q: What is “Gumby”?
A: (Laugh) That was my nickname in college.
A: I was so long, kind of uncoordinated … showed up first day of summer practice, and one of the fifth-year seniors turned around, asked me what my name is: “I’m gonna call you Gumby from now on,” and it stuck. I hated it at first, but lately everyone calls me it. Just kind of learned to go with it.
Q: What did you know about Yankees’ tradition when you were drafted?
A: One of my good friends was drafted by then the year before, Tyler Webb. I played with him for two years at school. He told me what to pack, what to expect, all the rules.
Q: All the rules?
A: Pants up, shaved, no chains …
Q: Did you have to shave?
A: Yeah. Had a beard in college. I shave bullpen days so I can have a little scruff on the mound.
Q: Why would you want to have a little scruff on the mound?
A: Just got a real bad baby face. I want to have just enough to where I can get by with it. That’s another thing Pettitte did — he would only shave the days after he pitched, so he would have a little bit on the mound, so kind of got that from him.
Q: What is it like living in a hotel?
A: I like living in hotels. … The beds are nice … They’re always made. … HBO, get to watch “Game of Thrones.” I like watching movies. I have my iPad. If nothing’s good on TV, I’ll just watch Netflix or something.
Q: Do you take the subway to the Stadium?
A: I’m starting to figure it out.
Q: What train is that?
A: It’s the 6 train then you get off after one and then you the 4 train the rest of the way.
Q: Have you been recognized at all?
A: No (laugh), I don’t think I’m gonna get recognized either.
Q: Why do you say that?
A: They said Andrew Miller took the subway every day and he never got recognized. … I don’t think I will.
Q: Do you hope you won’t?
A: I mean, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re nice (smile). If I’m throwing well and they want to say, “Good job,” go ahead.
Q: What were your first impressions when you saw Yankee Stadium when you got a tour one off day with the Staten Island Yankees?
A: I gotta get here quick (smile). I remember walking in through the tunnel and … being in awe.
Q: Any favorite New York City things yet?
A: I still haven’t really explored yet. We went to this one place when I came here for the first time, and it was awesome … Serendipity’s, some dessert place.
Q: Did you have the frozen hot chocolate?
A: I can’t remember what I had, some big ice cream sundae. I gotta stay away from that. I’ll treat myself once a month or something.
Q: Your Twitter feed: “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”
A: It’s from “Sandlot.” … You don’t want to get content with what you’re doing, just keep getting better.
Q: You retweeted a Derek Jeter quote: “If you’re going to play, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing ‘Jeopardy,’ I hate to lose.”
A: I would like to think of myself as a winner. I grew up a competitor. If I was playing “FIFA” with my brothers, I wanted to win. If I didn’t, I was gonna be [ticked]. If we were playing 21 in the backyard, if I don’t win, then we’re playing again until I win.
Q: What drives you?
A: I guess the big three is faith, family and friends. I know what I’m here for, I’m just trying to give off the right influence, be a good role model to any kids in South Carolina, and try and do things the right way.
Q: How much fun was the 2012 College World Series — though you lost to Arizona in the Finals?
A: I was only a freshman then, so I was kind of just excited to be there. We win one more game, I’m getting the ball in that championship game, so that [would’ve] been really cool. Threw that elimination game against Arkansas to get us to the championship series. It was huge for me to get in front of a lot of people, and kind of realize you’re just playing baseball in front of people. They’re just watching you, so you can’t really do anything about them watching.
Q: What was it like watching the Gamecocks South Carolina make it to the NCAA Final Four?
A: It was cool. Coach [Frank] Martin, he’s a great coach. He’s been molding that program for five years now, and it’s finally where he wants to be.
Q: Do you know former Yankee Bobby Richardson?
A: He’s from Sumter [S.C.]. I just talked to him before I came to spring training. We have this restaurant in Sumter called Guinyard Diner. It’s just got all kinds of Bobby Richardson memorabilia in it. More times than not you’re gonna see him in there eating.
Q: Did he give you any advice?
A: He told me, “You’re not gonna get any more of a class act than the Yankees.”
A: Yeah. A lot. My grandma was very superstitious growing up. A black cat crosses the road when you’re driving, you gotta put an “X” up on the top left of your windshield. … Someone’s passing you the salt at the dinner table, they gotta put it down before you can grab it. You spill salt, throw it over your shoulder. … You can’t walk under ladders. …I’ve got a routine, but it’s too in-depth. I can’t say that and give it away.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Steph Curry, Splash Bros. [Curry and Klay Thompson].
Q: Boyhood idols?
A: Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski].
Q: Why was Kobe your favorite?
A: So mentally strong. Probably one of the most competitive people in the world, I would say. He played with a broken finger … stuff like that. Just makes him stick out.
Q: Do you consider yourself mentally strong?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: How does that manifest itself on the mound?
A: Like getting out of jams, not giving in to hitters, not letting errors or anything get in my head or showing any kind of emotion on the mound. In college, our pitching coach was kind of stoic, until he got to know you. He always said, “You want to look the same no matter what’s happening, if you’re throwing a perfect game or if you’re giving up 20 in an inning, you don’t want to show a kink in your armor.”
Q: Your fascination with Waffle House?
A: (Smile) You know what you’re gonna get and it’s gonna be good every time.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Bull Durham.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Leo [Leonardo DiCaprio].
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Blake Lively.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Justin Timberlake.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom makes this chicken and rice.