When you’re a parent of a top-flight softball athlete like Joe Monteon is, there is no such thing as a relaxing summer.
“There is no summer,” said Monteon, whose daughter, Dominique, plays for the Cal Nuggets 16-and-under team and is an incoming junior at San Benito High School. “But we enjoy it. Instead of going to Hawaii for a week, we get to go to a lot of different places across the country and watch my daughter play.”
Dominique, who has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of North Carolina, played left field for a Nuggets squad that went 7-4 in the Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament in Colorado last week. It was an invite-only tournament that featured the crème de la crème of the traveling softball club teams in the nation.
It’s already been a busy summer for the Monteons, but then again, this isn’t their first rodeo. Joe, who is an assistant coach at San Benito High with under head coach Andrew Barragan, knows the demands of the summer travel ball circuit, which lasts just over two months.
“Everything is condensed,” Joe Monteon said. “It’s a roller coaster.”
Indeed, a week after the Haybalers were eliminated in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, Dominique Monteon was with the Nuggets in Stockton on the Memorial Day weekend for a tournament. They had three days off before heading to Southern California to play in the June Into Zoom Tournament.
Four days later, the Nuggets were in San Jose for the NorCal Tournament.
“We consider San Jose, Stockton and Sacramento home tournaments,” Monteon said.
The Nuggets then headed to Colorado and leave this weekend for a tournament in Huntington Beach. They’ll be back in the Bay Area for two days before traveling for another tournament. After that, they’ll actually have an entire week home before the Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) Nationals in Huntington Beach in the last week of July.
“We literally get 10 days off over two months,” Monteon said.
Big-time travel ball comes with a steep price. Teams had to pay $2,150 just to enter one of the tournaments in Colorado, and it’s not uncommon that parents spend anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 during the busy summer travel ball season.
“I never want to call it a rich man’s sport, but it’s getting expensive,” Monteon said.
Dominique had a couple of home runs in the Independence Tournament, and she was one of several Balers who were in Colorado playing for different club teams in the Triple Crown Sports Fireworks, Sparkler and Junior Sparkler Tournaments. There were over 800 teams competing in 12 different cities around the greater Denver metropolitan area.
Other Balers in competition included incoming junior Amber Rodriguez (California Suncats 16U), Chloe Cortez and Alyssa Ito (Salinas Storm 18U), and Amanda Moisa (San Jose Sting 18U). Recent San Benito High graduate and incoming University of Hawaii freshman Brittnee Rossi also played with Cortez and Ito on the Storm under coach Curtis Heen.
Barragan coached the Central Coast Athletics 14U team that had incoming Balers sophomore Julia Woeste, who played first base and had a solid tournament. A versatile talent, Woeste should push Moisa for the No. 1 pitcher’s role next season. Barragan said he’s been impressed with Woeste’s work ethic since the high school season ended.
“Besides Dominique, I would say Julia has probably been our hardest working player in the off-season,” he said. “She’s that dedicated. She was really hitting the ball well in Colorado.”
One might wonder why a player like Monteon would continue playing in these tournaments when she and North Carolina have already made a verbal pact. It’s simple: They need to stay sharp against the best competition, and college coaches attend the premier national events by the hundreds to see how their prospective players are progressing (or in the worst-case scenario, regressing).
Dominique, who plays shortstop during the high school season, was in left field for the Nuggets. College coaches are not allowed to talk with incoming players until their senior year, so they often relay messages through the players’ club or high school coaches.
North Carolina will have a roster dominated by juniors and seniors when Monteon plays at the school in two years, so taking up another position will increase her chances to grab playing time as a freshman.
“(Dominique) will have to be really diverse in her skill set,” Joe said. “She’ll do the things necessary to be ready to play in college.”