Have you ever wondered what it would be like to come in to work everyday knowing your best friend would be there, too? Well, for the Rockland Boulders’ very own Mike Fransoso and Mike Montville, that vision has become a reality.
Their grandmothers are sisters through marriage making them family, but the choice to be best friends was all theirs. They go hand in hand; like a hot dog and an ice-cold beer on gameday. Good on their own, but put them together and its magic.
Its been that way ever since they were kids, hoping to make it to the pros one day. Always outdoors and involved in sports, they played on a lot of different fields together. Nothing, however, could compare to the diamond where they both continue to excel.
“Theirs is a special relationship,” said the manager of the Rockland Boulders, Jaime Keefe. “It has been nothing but a winning relationship when they’re together.”
The 2016 season has been a memorable one so far for the dynamic duo of Fransoso and Montville. For the first time in what feels like a lifetime to them, since going their separate ways in college, they are once again able to put on the same cap and uniform. This is Montville’s first professional season and Fransoso’s, who has been playing a little longer, first outside of affiliated baseball.
“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘this is going to be fun. Its going to be a good time again,’” Fransoso said of being reunited with the right fielder and his right-hand man. “Neither one of us thought we were ever going to play together again.”
Prior to signing contracts with Rockland, the last time they stepped out on the field together was more than five years ago as Clippers at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire. As two of the better players to come up through the town, according to former coach Tim Hopley, they led the team to multiple state championships.
“I’ve come to find that success is built upon your hardest workers,” Hopley said, “and those two are by far the hardest workers I have ever seen. It all starts with them.”
The off-season was a foreign concept to them. As soon as baseball was over, they would hit the cages and train for the spring. They practiced on their swings, tossed the ball around and motivated each other to do better.
“We would get into our fair share of arguments, but he’s family so it was fine,” Montville said. “He’s like an older brother to me. Always has been. We know what to say to each other and when to say it.”
“We know how and when to push each other and when to back off,” Fransoso added. “We’ll give each other hitting tips because we pretty much know the other’s swing inside and out. I have no problem telling him when he’s doing something wrong or when he’s doing something right, and he’s the same way with me. We let each other know when we have some advice, and it usually works.”
They maintained that same routine and dialogue into their college years, Fransoso being the first to go after graduating from Portsmouth in 2009. He attended the University of Maine while Montville, two years younger, was still in high school.
“That first winter when I came back, we did everything together,” Fransoso said. “We continued to work out together when I was home and I even went through the recruiting process of choosing a college with him. The fact that I was able to give him some tips and pointers through it all was pretty special for the both of us.”
In 2010, it was Montville’s turn to put on the cap and gown. He attended the University of Maryland for three years, where he was moved from playing the infield to the outfield. As if being a freshman in a strange environment wasn’t demanding enough, the first baseman turned outfielder had a lot on his plate.
The biggest contributing factor to his success was the ability to manage his time. He did not focus on being the best in his craft. Instead, he valued quality over quantity and focused on getting the basics down pat.
“When you have the little things down and get a good rhythm going, it makes the job you have to do a little bit easier,” he said. “I’m still learning though.”
He took that and ran with it all the way to Southern New Hampshire University, where he got his Master’s in 2015.
Fransoso, already with the physical capabilities to play multiple positions, picked up a lot of mental strengths during his time at Maine. Playing at the collegiate level, he had some setbacks with injuries. In order to overcome them and get back to the game, he needed to get in the right mindset.
“Not being able to play due to injuries forced my mental edge to be better,” he said. “As you grow and get older, the competition gets tougher and you need to step out of the box to evaluate how you stack up. The game gets faster and if you want to keep up with it, you need to be able to adapt.”
And he did. In June of 2013, his talents were noticed and purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was assigned to the team in March of the following year, putting off college graduation until 2015. He found himself shuffling back and forth between playing for the Pirates’ affiliates, the West Virginia Power, Jamestown Jammers and Bradenton Marauders.
Although he was honored to be given the opportunity to move on up in his career, it did not pan out the way he had hoped. Instead of being assigned to play in Double-A, he remained in extended spring training in Bradenton, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Pirates.
“As much as I wanted to stay, the best option for me at the time was to ask for my release,” he said. “I knew that I needed to play and that I could with the Boulders. It was a tough decision and not one you want to have to make, but it was the right one. There were no hard feelings with the Pirates though. I still learned a lot during my time with them. I’m a better ballplayer and a better man from it.”
Despite taking different paths to get to where they are today, its no coincidence that these two ended up in the same clubhouse. A force as strong as theirs is hard to keep apart.
“It’s a fun dynamic to watch play out and its certainly one that I’m glad to be on this side of,” Keefe said. “These are two guys that I knew I wanted to give the opportunities to. ‘Sos can probably play at least six different positions on the baseball field as good as anyone else, which makes him a huge contributor. Mont always put up good numbers, and I knew I wanted his bat here.”
The additions of Fransoso and Montville have been well-received, especially back in their hometown.
“Fransoso was 5-foot-6 and weighed 100 pounds when I met him, and look at him now,” Hopley said of the now 6-foot, 185 pound third baseman. “He grew into his own and still manages to keep the athleticism of a younger kid. Montville is putting roots down in right field, a completely different position from what I’m used to seeing him in, and he’s become a viable defender there. It is amazing to see how far the guys have come. They are a big part of this game, but not bigger than it and that’s an important thing to take note of.”
Even though they have the support of each other and of their teammates ready on deck, their families are also huge supporters.
“Its really been fun for everyone involved,” Montville said. “It means a lot to have the kind of support system that we do here.”
This season has definitely been one for the books for the New Hampshire natives. Even though they don’t know where they will end up next, they’re counting their blessings and just enjoying the ride.
“Who knows what’s going to happen down the road,” Fransoso said, smiling. “When we look back on all this 20 years from now when its a distant memory, we’ll have a lot of stories to tell. For now, we’re still making them.”