When the Tampa Bay Rays traded star pitcher James Shields to Kansas City just after the conclusion of baseball's winter meetings, the headline player headed to Tampa was star outfield prospect Wil Myers. Intriguingly, there was another name heading from Kansas City to Tampa that was made the trade a bit of an enigma: In dealing for Shields, a Santa Clarita (Cal.) Hart High graduate, the Royals sent another pitching Hart grad, Mike Montgomery, right back to Tampa Bay.
The deal is a rare prep alumni-swap in professional sports. While it isn't unheard of for alumni of the same college to be involved in the same deal, the odds of alums of the same high school being exchanged are exponentially longer. Just think of the number of high schools … it's staggering.
Though Shields graduated in 2000 and Montgomery graduated in 2008, both were coached by Hart legend Jim Ozella, who has served as the SoCal high school's head baseball coach for the past 13 years. Perhaps fittingly, both Shields and Montgomery won Foothills League Titles for Hart in their senior seasons; the school earned just one other league title in intervening years, in 2001.
Naturally, the Royals-Rays trade must have caused some unique emotional turbulence for Ozella. Unfortunately for the coach, his winter trades weren't even done, either.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, another former Hart pitcher, ex-UCLA phenom Trevor Bauer, was also traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Cleveland Indians two days later. Bauer was on the same 2008 Foothills League championship team as Montgomery.
After all that action, what would the pitchers' former high school coach have to say?
"Everybody loves our guys," Ozella told the Times.
Fair, but decidedly un-Casey Stengelesque. It would be a significant surprise if three Hart pitchers were traded in the same offseason again. That's probably all fine for Ozella. He's got plenty of work to do developing the next Montgomery, Bauer and Shields.