Monell SR. also played baseball in Italy, Tawain, Mexico & Puerto Rico. As he & his wife divorced he would get half custody of Monell Jr. Johnny would spend time traveling with his father & grew up around baseball clubhouses.
At seven years old he used to take players equipment & put it in his locker. One day former Met Bernard Gilkey & friends put the kid safely in an equipment bag & hung it on a door. It was their way of telling his father to have him stop taking the others equipment. His father said he let him hang there a bit to teach him a lesson, it was all in fun.
He grew up across from Pelham Bay Park & also played baseball in between the apartment buildings where he lived. He & his friends would hit a tennis ball across to another building & each level was a different hit. It was there he said he learned to hit up the middle.
Quotes: “You had to hit it up the middle. If you hit the buildings, it was an out. To this day, I’m an up-the-middle, gap hitter. I really think it comes from playing that game at Pelham Park.”
While his father was playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, the 12 year old Monell was shagging fly balls in the outfield. It was then that Cubs catcher; Hector Villanueva told him to put on his catching gear & catch. Next thing you know his father hears his son is catching in the bullpen. From then on, Monell Jr. originally a short stop, became a catcher.
Monell was a baseball star at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx & later attended Seminole Community College in Florida. He was chosen by the San Francisco Giants in 2007 as a 30th round pick.
After six years in the minor leagues he got a big league chance in 2013. He played in 8 games for the Giants batting .125 with an RBI. It was tough for a catcher in the Giants organization with a guy like Buster Posey behind the plate. His contract was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles & LA Dodgers but he never made to their big league clubs. On November 6th, 2015 the New York Mets gave him a shot.
He was invited to the Mets Spring Training in 2015 & impressed with a .357 average in 42 at bats. He was known more of a left handed power bat & not known for being much of a defensive player.
Quotes: “It’s hard to imagine playing in Citi Field, and playing for the Mets, knowing my dad spent his entire career trying to get to the same place. Growing up, it wasn’t that far away, just across the Whitestone Bridge.”
With injury to the Mets main catcher Travis d'Arnaud, Monell got a chance with the Mets. Although highly touted rookie Kevin Plawecki was on board, as well as Anthony Recker, Monell was still getting a chance as the fourth string catcher. He debuted with the Mets on May 9th.
On May 10th, he came into the game as a pinch hitter with the Mets ahead of the Phillies 5-4 at Citizens Bank Park. Monell delivered a two run double scoring Recker & Ruben Tejada. Monell struggled at the plate & saw his average fall to .059. He was sent back to AAA Vegas but returned again at the end of June.
On June 28th he got a start & collected two hits while scoring a run in a 7-2 Mets win over the Reds. In July he had a stretch where he hit safely in four straight games.
On July 6th, he got some revenge on his old Giants team by hitting a two run double in the top of the 9th inning breaking open a scoreless game. He scored the third run on Juan Lagares' base hit. The Mets won it 3-0 as Jonathan Neise pitched one of his best games, a three hit eight inning shut out.
Monell was back down to the minors by late July & was recalled again in September. In 27 games he hit .167 with a pair of doubles & four RBIs. He did not make the post season roster.
He now lives in South Jersey where his father runs a baseball scholl in Margate, New Jersey.