As a four-year letterman on the Stafford High baseball team, Ian Montelongo knew adversity firsthand.
With his graduation less than a week away, Montelongo reflected on his time playing for the Spartans, which was pockmarked by the death of a coach and seasons ending below the .500 mark. For the soon-to-be Stafford alum, his love of the game and desire to exert a positive influence on his teammates weighed more than what the win-loss column showed.
Montelongo, who played right fielder, made it a goal to join the team even before he set foot in the halls at Stafford.
“It was on my mind before even starting high school, and (that) was all I could think of,” he told Texas Scorecard. “I made sure I tried my hardest … if my talent wasn’t there, I was going to at least somehow make it on there for other reasons. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”
It is a rarity for a freshman to earn a spot on the varsity in any sport. Montelongo became a member of that exclusive club in the Spartans’ 2016 season.
Though he did not see much action, he was happy just to help the team. The joy of accomplishing his goal was dwarfed by the sudden passing of his first varsity coach, Stafford alum Michael Mesa, on April 29, 2016.
“He was a really big role model in my life, and I wanted to make him proud,” said Montelongo.
Stafford’s first season without Mesa, who was 26 and engaged at the time of his death, and Montelongo’s second was filled with growing pains. The team endured blowout losses and failed to notch a district victory.
Donald Allen succeeded Mesa prior to Montelongo’s junior season in 2018. Afterwards, the Spartans began a slow but steady climb with Montelongo helping lead the way.
According to Montelongo, his third season was “just a whole turnaround year.”
“Everything about us was starting to gel,” he said. “You can tell the program was having a little spark.”
Stafford won only one district game in Allen’s first year, but what amazed Montelongo was that the games the Spartans did lose were by a run.
“We were never out of the game,” said Montelongo.
In Montelongo’s just-concluded senior season, the Spartans showed significant signs of progress. A three-game winning streak and a long-overdue victory over district rival Sealy High were bright spots in the 6-9 campaign.
“Many things changed just by following the plan that we had going into this year,” said Montelongo. “We gained a lot of respect … even though we did not the playoffs, we accomplished something really huge.”
Montelongo has no regrets about not appearing in a playoff game during his high school career.
“I really gave everything I could for the team,” he said.
For his efforts, Montelongo’s teammates bestowed on him the Spartan Warrior Award.
“He got our highest team award in my book voted on unanimously by his teammates,” said Allen in an email to Texas Scorecard.
Montelongo believes that the groundwork has been laid for future Spartans teams.
“I feel we have set the foundation for the following years to come,” Montelongo said.
Aside from lettering in baseball, Montelongo was a drumline member with Stafford’s marching band. His future plans include attending Houston Community College, transferring to the University of Houston, and starting a business.