Hammond Sports Hall of Fame

Pat Montalbano gets an unexpected call from Hammond Sports HOF

2014-02-21T17:00:00Z 2014-02-22T01:31:11Z Pat Montalbano gets an unexpected call from Hammond Sports HOFJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

Pat Montalbano is a longtime supporter of the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame.

"I usually attend all the induction ceremonies," he said. "It's great to see some of the outstanding players I've coached and coached against get the recognition they deserve."

Montalbano also tries to keep the Hall of Fame up to date.

"I thought he was one of the best three-sport athletes we've had here," Montalbano said of a player he once coached at Clark, "so I sent in a nomination form with his name on it."

Some time later, Montalbano got a letter from the HOF.

"At first I thought he got in," Montalbano said, "but when I glanced at the letter, I saw his name wasn't listed with the 2014 class so I just put it away without paying much attention to it."

Later, a colleague contacted Montalbano and suggested he should read the letter again, this time more closely.

"I didn't think I was part of the conversation," said Montalbano, who was surprised -- to say the least -- that he was among the seven chosen to be enshrined March 11 during the induction ceremony/dinner at the Hammond Civic Center.

"It still hasn't hit me," said Montalbano, who was Clark's high school athletic director from 2006-2010 after serving as Clark's middle school athletic director for nearly 30 years. "It probably will when I step up to the podium."

Montalbano, 64, of Chicago, played football and participated in track at St. Francis de Sales.

"I never was a star athlete," said Montalbano, who was a second-teamer at both offensive line and linebacker, and threw discus and shot put for the Pioneers. "That likely helped me as a coach. Sitting on the bench forced me to learn more about the game. I always felt more of a connection with players who had hustle and work extra hard to make up for their lack of ability."

During his tenure at Clark, Montalbano coached baseball, football, basketball, track and cross country, compiling winning records and championships in most ventures.

From 1977 to 2000, Montalbano was head coach for the Pioneers middle school boys basketball team, which went 373-270 during that span. He received conference "Coach of the Year" awards twice during his three-year stint as Clark's varsity baseball head coach, which resulted in three conference titles, two sectional titles, and a school-first regional title in 2006.

Montalbano also served as an varsity assistant coach for Clark's football and baseball teams, and assisted Bob Navta with Clark's middle school cross country teams, which won 11 straight city championships.

Whatever sport Montalbano coached, getting kids to come out and stay out was never a problem.

"I believe if a kid makes the team and shows up for practice, he's going to play," Montalbano said. "Yeah, sometimes you might lose a game here or there if you make sure everyone on the bench is going to get in an inning or two, but I've found out that so many times it's the guy you least expect is the one who comes through for you in the end.

"All they needed was the chance."

Montalbano still teaches high school math at Clark, where he was named "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" in 1995.

"Being a math teacher requires a lot of prep time, and if you're athletic director who also coaches, it can really wear you down," Montalbano said of why he stepped away from athletic administration and coaching three years ago. "It was time for some new blood to take over. Now, after work I can come straight home and spend more time with my wife (Suzanne)."

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