WHITESBORO – Coach Chris “Bubba” Montrose is a familiar name around youth athletics in Whitesboro.
He’s coached youth baseball, basketball and football in some capacity for the past 14 years, helping the majority of those kids reach their potential as players and young men and women. He also overlapped, coaching both little league and minor league in the same seasons, then quickly moving onto football then basketball.
Montrose is nearing the end of this memorable chapter in his coaching life. His last regular season little league home game was Saturday, June 9 and several of his former teammates showed up, dressed in Fire Department red to show their gratitude for “Coach Bubba.” Current team parents organized the event in honor of a man that gave his time and effort over the last 14 years, pretty much coaching sports year-round.
While it has been a whirlwind ride, it has been a rewarding stretch for Montrose.
“Playing sports teaches so many more lessons about life than just throwing and hitting a ball or making a jump shot,” Montrose said. “I wanted them to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and how to handle adversity with character and integrity. These are all lessons that can be learned on a field which will transfer on with them not only in their sports careers but in life. I would hope my players learned it is ok to fail because that is how you learn and to understand they need to believe in themselves and never doubt their abilities.
“A kid never knows what they can do until they actually do it and prove to themselves they have more ability then they ever thought they had. I hope I was able to make kids believe in themselves and that they should not be the ones to hold themselves back because they are worried they might not catch a ball or make a shot. The only way to succeed at something is to give a 100% in trying to accomplish it and at the end of the day, whether or not you met your goal is not as important as knowing you gave your best effort in trying to accomplish it. The quote, or mantra, ‘Doubt Kills more Dreams than Failure Ever Will’ has fallen on the ears of my players for at least the last 5-6 years, and it is the truth.”
I have first-hand knowledge of Coach Bubba’s coaching style, as my son played for him in all three sports, and he briefly coached my daughter in one all-star season in minor league. Montrose found a way to strike a perfect balance between fun and discipline to gain both the love and respect of his players. That blend hasn’t gone unnoticed by players, parents, fellow coaches and all involved with Whitestown Little League and other youth programs. He knows each player’s strengths and limitations, while pushing them to strive to reach their potential each season.
“He just knows how to adapt and knows how to make it fun,” said Nick Panuccio, president of Whitestown Little League. “It’s not all about winning and losing, it’s about playing the game the right way and getting better throughout the season. If he goes 0-12, as long as his kids got better during the year, it’s a successful season to him. It’s never been just about winning. I think winning has just been a side product of how he handles his team and how he coaches his team.
“Besides that he’s probably the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet and the most approachable guy you’d ever want to meet. Kids absolutely adore him. … He just has a very good rapport with the parents and the kids. You could see that from the ceremony the other day … I didn’t do that … He deserves it, but if I did that for him I’d have to do it for every coach that leaves. The parents … that’s how much they respect him. Kids will come back six, seven years later to pay tribute, just because the kids will tell you ‘Coach Bubba, you taught me something’. It’s not necessarily all about baseball.”
Montrose grew up in New York Mills and was a three-sport star for the Marauders. He began his coaching career in Whitestown in 2005. Since then he’s coached in some capacity, sometimes juggling two or three different teams at once. He started with Pop Warner, then tee ball, minor league, youth and AAU basketball and little league.
His three boys, Jake, Connor and Ty, have moved their way through different levels of competition. During his prolonged run in little league, Bubba has remained with the “Big Red” until Ty, now 12, finishes out his final season.
He’s won several regular season and all-star championships, winning District 10 titles in 2012 and 2017 in A’s 2014 in B’s and 2010 in C’s.. He’s also won all-star tournaments in minor league in 2014. However, the lasting memories go far beyond those accomplishments.
“I will remember the smiles on the players’ faces as they accomplished things for the first time, whether it was their first hit or catching their first fly ball in a game,” Montrose said. “I personally got so much joy out of seeing a kid’s face light up as they realized they could do something they were so worried they could not do. When that hit or catch happened, and the player helped their team, which was always followed by their teammates high fiving and hugging them to celebrate their success, it made all the time and effort put in to working with the kids worth it.”
Over the next month Montrose will try to help guide Whitestown to another District 10 title. After that it’s time for a break. Whether his hiatus from youth baseball is permanent or not, only time will tell.
“I do plan on taking a break right now from coaching and enjoy not only watching my sons play, but also all the players I have coached through the years,” Montrose said. “I am not sure if anything will come up in the future, but I would never count out being in a dugout or a sideline in the future.”
Montrose focuses on trying to get his players to grow as people as well as athletes, while developing responsibility, a high level of sportsmanship as well as leadership qualities that transcend athletics. He makes sure his players become reliable and gives kids as much credit for being a good teammate or sportsman as he would for great performances.
With many parent’s coaching their kids, it becomes obvious rather quickly which player is the coach’s son/daughter. Watching Montrose, there’s no difference in how he treats entire roster. They all get the same amount of attention, encouragement and understanding, no matter the difference in age or skill level.
“I believe playing sports helps to make a well-rounded individual no matter how successful a kid is at playing them,” Montrose said. “Additionally, I think I have understood from the very beginning coaches who realize you need to be there to coach the team, not just your son or daughter, and believe in every player just as much as you believe in your own child, have the key to helping every player on the team get better.
“Years ago, I received a baseball from one of my players and on it he wrote ‘All a kid needs is a little help, a little hope, and someone to believe in them — Thanks for always believing in me’. That made me feel like I was doing something right.”
Tom Kane was an assistant coach on Fire Department from 2012-15 while his son, Tyler, was on the team. His time assisting Coach Bubba was impactful in numerous ways.
“The biggest thing I learned from coaching with Bubba was to have patience with the kids but also to expect the maximum amount of effort from them,” Kane said. “Coach Bubba is the best at teaching without coming down hard on kids for mistakes. The next play is always more important than the last play.
“After coaching with Bubba I went on to coach my son’s travel basketball team for three years and my daughter’s travel basketball team for another three and one year as head coach of her softball team. To this day I try to coach with the same passion and patience that he had in the four years we coached together. ‘Perfect people are boring’ (is) one of the first Bubba-ism’s I learned and it will stick with me forever. Coach Bubba is one of a kind. My family and I are lucky that to be part of his coaching legacy.”
Montrose has impacted hundreds of players over the past decade and a half. Louden Johnson had the pleasure of playing his entire little league career for Fire Department and believes much of what he learned are life-long lessons.
“He’s a super hands-on coach,” Johnson said. “He helps you get better individually if you’re struggling but still has time to help the entire team. He had a good work-ethic and made sure the players did as well. There were no handouts or favoritism, you had to work to get better. It was a competitive team game and he’s probably the best coach I’ve had in baseball. He worked hard and made the team work … and that’s probably why we won the title my last year. He’s phenomenal.”
Panuccio’s son and Bubba’s oldest, Jake, played varsity ball together the past two years and went through little league, travel ball and American Legion together. They coached all-stars together and Panuccio has also seen first-hand the level of impact ‘Coach Bubba’ has had on the programs he’s coached.
“He’s meant everything,” Panuccio, who is also leaving the program after the all-star season ends, said of Bubba. “He’s not there just for his own team, he’s coaches all the kids in our league. Win or lose he always has positive things to say. He probably year-in, year-out has the most fundamental and most energetic team … and it’s much more than that. He’s the first guy down at the field when you need help. You need someone to help getting field ready, he’s your guy. You need help getting the batting cage up, he’s the guy you’re going to call.”
“He never has anything bad to say about anybody,” “He’s always coaching the kids and is going to be well missed. He’s probably the best coach that I’ve ever seen at the youth level.”
Tee Ball: Head or assistant from 2006-11.
Minor League: Head or assistant 2007-2014.
Little League: Assistant 2010 & 2011 and then head coach 2012-2018.
Travel Baseball – Asst. coach CNY Naturals from 2010-2018.
Pop Warner: 2005-2012.
Whitestown Youth Basketball Program: Coached 2nd through 4th grades from 2007-2012.
Whitestown Boys Travel basketball: 2008-2017.
AAU: Assistant coach 2012-2013.
Mid-York Sports Report is running a volunteer series over the summer months. For nominations, please contact Nick Sardina via email at firstname.lastname@example.org