NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Patrick Montgomery has always been interested in up and coming baseball prospects.
While working for the Coast Guard in the early 2000's, he was in Hampton Roads at just the right time.
"I kept hearing these names come up over and over again- Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, the Uptons- and they were talking about how great of players they were," Montgomery recalled. "I'm like 'that's really strange. They can't all be from the same area.'"
He would be transferred out of the area before too long, but would hear plenty of those names mentioned at the national level throughout the years. Now he's telling the story of the success in his book The Baseball Miracle of the Splendid 6 and Towny Townsend. Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton make up the group, but Montgomery wanted to look deeper. He learned of coach Marvin "Towny" Townsend when speaking with Reynolds last year.
"I was kind of struck by the man that [Townsend] was, how he put aside a lot of his own to make sure that the kids had a great way to learn baseball, but also leadership and how to be good people," Montgomery said.
Townsend started the first AAU baseball program in Hampton Roads and set a high standard for the game in the area. He instilled a work ethic into young players that turned them into grinders, guys who would work as hard as they could at the sport until the sport told them they could not play anymore.
"Towny Townsend and people like that just taught them how to stick with it, how to be good people," the author pointed out. "If it didn't work out in baseball, they were prepared to be a very good person."
Townsend passed away in April of 2007 after a battle with cancer at the age of 54. The Splendid Six, with the exception of Justin Upton, have all retired from Major League Baseball. Montgomery did not want to see the contributions of those behind the successful careers disappear into history without a mention, which is why he thought it was the perfect time to tell the story.
"I wanted to make sure that these coaches kind of get their due credit and their time in the sun with this," he noted. "These players have heard the crowds and have heard the love from the fans, but these coaches and the parents worked so hard to ensure that these kids, but not only these kids, many other kids, had a chance to play high school ball and play college ball and get scholarships to go to college."
Zimmerman, a Kellam product, retired prior to the beginning of this season after a 16 year career with the Nationals. He won a World Series in 2019, was an All-Star and holds many of Washington's franchise batting records.
Cuddyer is a Great Bridge graduate who played for 15 seasons with the Twins, Rockies and Mets. He was a two-time All-Star and won the National League batting title in 2013, earning him a Silver Slugger Award. He appeared in the 2015 World Series before announcing his retirement.
Wright played his high school baseball at Hickory and spent his entire 14 year career with the Mets. He also played in the 2015 World Series, was a seven-time All-Star and won two Gold Gloves.
The First Colonial product Reynolds played for 13 seasons, hitting the field for nine teams. He was a strong defensive third baseman and was known for his long home runs.
B.J. Upton played high school baseball at Greenbrier Christian Academy and was a fixture in big leagues from 2004-2016. He played in the 2008 World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays and was the first Ray to hit for the cycle in October of 2009.
Justin Upton, a Great Bridge graduate, is currently an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, his sixth team. The younger Upton is a four-time All-Star who has been in the majors since 2007.
"You have 22 million kids per year that play baseball," Montgomery pointed out. "These six, and Chris Taylor, have climbed to the top levels of Major League Baseball, All-Star Games, World Series championships. It's amazing. It all happened right there and Hampton Roads should be very proud.
For more information on how to purchase The Baseball Miracle of the Splendid 6 and Towny Townsend, click here.