By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Fresh off a flight from Boston and just a blink of sleep, Cubs catcher Miguel Montero was ready to make Monday one of the greatest days of his life.
Montero officially became a citizen of the United States on Monday morning, a moment he had long dreamed to make possible. Mere hours after the Cubs’ team charter arrived back at 5 a.m., the 33-year-old Montero made his way downtown where he and his wife, Vanessa, passed the citizenship test and soon after were honored as official citizens of this country.
When the Cubs arrived in their home clubhouse — some sluggish after Sunday’s late game at Fenway Park — there was Montero in a gray sport coat and black slacks walking on air as he entered to congratulations. He came straight from the ceremony.
“I’m excited,” said Montero, finally drained after a long day ended at midnight. “It was a good feeling.”
Montero, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, was signed by the Diamondbacks in 2001 and played his first season of professional baseball in America back in 2002 as an 18-year-old in the rookie league. He debuted in the big leagues four years later in September 2006. A two-time All-Star, Montero would join the Cubs in 2015.
During the fourth inning of a rain-soaked 10-2 Cubs loss to the Phillies, the stadium stood for Montero as he was honored on the left-field video board. Montero tipped his cap back to the crowd.
Montero studied hard for the citizenship test, spending his spare time absorbing every bit of U.S. history. He would often toss out questions to teammates, most of whom were left guessing.
But while the Cubs had fun with the process, they were also eager to help Montero reach his goal. John Lackey was among those instrumental in Montero’s studies. Dartmouth product Kyle Hendricks, naturally, knew his history.
For Montero, the test was easy.
“A lot of those guys, they didn’t even know the answer,” Montero said. “For me to be able to answer those questions, it was pretty special.
“Everybody contributed a little bit. It was great. It paid off good.”
Teammates were beaming with pride for Montero, the beloved player who has been a key part of the Cubs’ success. Last season, he took the role of tutor for rookie Willson Contreras and accepted his reserve position on the roster.
This time, Montero was the one learning while teammates helped along the way. The Cubs were thrilled for him. They understood what it means.
“It’s a really cool accomplishment for him,” outfielder Jason Heyward said. “I know it’s cool for his kid, his family, being that he has played baseball here, made a living here, a career, supporting his family in this country, it’s another one of those life accomplishments to say you’ve done.
“You feel a part of something. You don’t feel like an outsider.”
Cubs manger Joe Maddon inserted Montero into Monday’s game during the eighth inning. He would fly out to left field in the bottom half of the frame.
A day that began on a flight from Boston became one Montero would never forget. Deprived of sleep, he passed the test, received his certificate then arrived at the ballpark for Monday’s game.
“I feel good,” Montero said. “I’m tired.”
Even after a tough loss, Montero was still smiling. So were teammates like Heyward, who could appreciate his work toward this accomplishment.
Montero is living his American dream.