Montenegro brothers find second home at Southern Miss

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 11:51 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Mauricio Montenegro tells a story about when his son Gabe was in diapers.

Gabe found a beer bottle at a family party and decided to use it as a tee for batting practice.

He loved baseball from a young age - Southern Miss fans have bore witness to that for years watching Gabe in the lead-off spot.

Now Golden Eagles are getting to know younger brother Rodrigo as the Montenegro’s continue to make their mark on Hattiesburg.

“If you ask a baseball parent about their kids either pitching or getting at-bats, it’s a real stress,” Mauricio said. “So now it’s double stress.”

It’s a stress Mauricio would not trade for anything in the world.

“He’s real excited,” Rodrigo said. “He’s actually texting us every day, sending us his plan, his trip schedule. So he’s real excited, my mom’s excited too.”

“We’ve been playing together pretty much all our lives so having [Rodrigo] here for my final season, it’s just incredible,” Gabe said.

Playing on the same Division I college baseball team seems surreal considering all the obstacles put before Gabe and Rodrigo.

Baseball is an afterthought in Guatemala - there are just two little leagues in the entire country.

So the Montenegro’s made their way to Tampa, Florida where Southern Miss eventually stumbled upon Gabe in 2016.

“Since we were little we wanted to play college baseball,” Gabe said. “That was our dream and our only chance was to come to the U.S. to be able to be recruited ‘cause they’re not going to recruit you in Guatemala. My parents and us just decided to take that leap of faith.”

“These two kids, they deserve all the credit,” Mauricio said. “They left home at 15 and that’s not an easy task. You gotta be mature, you gotta know what you want.”

The way coach Scott Berry describes how Gabe feels about baseball is “he’s ate up with it.”

Rodrigo is much like his sibling in that regard - except he has to be a bit louder playing behind the plate and all.

Through 20 games Gabe is batting .268 with seven runs-batted-in. Rodrigo is batting .245 with five RBIs from the nine-hole spot.

“He’s just like older brother Gabe,” Berry said. “He’s a fantastic and special person - one that teammates gravitate to. The challenge is going to be probably something brotherly there where who can out-do who when it’s all said and done.”

It might just feel like the ole days playing little league together in Guatemala.

Then again, Southern Miss is now home to the Montenegro’s.

“Hattiesburg, I really like it,” Rodrigo said. “I really like the fans, how it’s a baseball city.”

“You can see how people are embraced - the players - every one of them really,” Mauricio said. “Gabe came one more year because he loves it here.”

“The fanbase has been amazing,” Gabe said. “All the people just make you feel like you’re at home. That Guatemalan flag, it’s a great feeling - just knowing you have the support no matter what.”

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