Who is Montaous Walton?
Walton said members of his "old inner circle" misled the Courier on the first story and took offense at not being able to defend himself to Jones.
"Fred reached out to him and he was avoiding Fred's calls – Fred was begging him to at least sit down with me and at least explain to her what was going on," Jones said. "I wrote the retraction, and then he called me, asking me to get rid of the retraction."
He was then asked directly if he was being honest in his claims to OnMilwaukee.com.
"I am being up front with you," he said. "Around that time I was still at Play Ball Academy. I wasn't signed, but I was still playing baseball and getting looked at. That's the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
It was a past not originally brought up when on April 14 a person identifying himself as Howie Enis contacted OnMilwaukee.com with this feel-good story.
"my name is coach howie enis and i was wondering were you able to do an article on milwaukee native montaous walton, who is currently over in ponce Puerto rico and competing in intersquad games while working on his switch hitting, walton will be attending extended spring training when he arrives back in florida"
Four days later, Walton himself reached out via email.
"how are you my name is montaous walton and I am an instate product and is in the bluejays farm system my coaches and I were wondering were you able to do a feature on me?"
OnMilwaukee.com and Walton finally connected in an April 27 phone interview where Walton said he had been signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent out of the Play Ball Baseball Academy in Ft. Lauderdale.
When asked if it was a legitimate signing and not a tryout invitation, Walton laughed.
"Oh, no, I signed a contract already," he said. "I signed a contract so what I have to do is just improve myself, you know what I mean, before I can get assigned to short season, or most likely short season, or high A or something like that, maybe in June or what not."
When contacted about Walton, a Blue Jays spokesperson said they had heard of Walton's claims before, and that "this guy has never been part of our organization in any way."
In a follow-up phone interview on April 30, confronted with the Blue Jays' response, Walton attempted to clarify:
"It's basically like, we're down here whatever, me, the guy you talked to, coach Howie, you didn't talk to him but you emailed him, just like other coaches, as well. There is a scout down here, his name is Jim Dixon, he's one of the scouts down here or whatever. The signing is guaranteed, but what they wanted to do was test me.
"It's not really a tryout, though, it's more on the side. But he wanted to test me in like the 60-yard dash basically and the infielding drills and that sh*t and we're going to (inaudible) and that's it, and then I'll be able to sign. It's a different paper that I signed before, but this time I'll be able to sign the actual minor league contract. You know what I mean? They give you, uh, it's something else they give you before that, I think every team gives a prospect that. I don't know if it's like a, know what I mean, it's like a different thing they give you before that you sign and then you actually sign a minor league contract."
When asked when he would officially sign with Toronto, Walton said "It'll be like tomorrow (May 1) at the latest. Tomorrow. Everything will be tomorrow, for sure. Everything will be official."
This tactic has surprised MLB, which investigates "one or two" people a year masquerading as major league baseball players.
"Very unique," Mullin said. "Most of them like to avoid publicity. I guess in his mind this would be evidence that would give him credibility to his claim to say, 'look at this article.' Apparently not the smartest plan."
In that same conversation with OnMilwaukee.com, Walton said he was 23 years old and had been playing at the academy from 2008 to 2011 under the direction of noted international scout Fred Ferreira.
Ferreira, currently the Baltimore Orioles Director of International Recruiting, once ran the Play Ball Baseball Academy, but it closed in 2009. Through the Orioles, Ferreira said he had never heard of, or worked with, Walton.
The academy still has an active web site, but the agency that once handled registration for the academy said it was a camp for players 18 and under, not adult prospects.
Becoming a reality
It seems implausible one sports management firm could sign and fund a client sight unseen, let alone two of them. Yet that is what happened in the last eight months, as Walton the baseball player happened to catch The Seven Bridges Group (TSBG) and Red Eye Sports Management at the exact moment they were vulnerable.
According to former TSGB employee and current owner of Red Eye Sports Management Colin Cummins, Walton approached TSBG as it was trying to build a baseball clientele to add to its football, basketball and entertainment rosters.
Walton claimed to be a professional baseball player already signed to the Blue Jays organization. Cursory Google searches confirmed this, as Walton's name was mentioned widely in Blue Jays prospect discussions.
This is where Walton's virtual reality became tangible.
The Seven Bridges Group even noted as such in a formal press release sent out on Sept. 29, 2011: "It is no surprise that there was so much gossip, excitement and rumors floating around Walton's potential during his performance at the Major League camp."
Travis Bell, the CEO of TSBG, to this day remains incredulous about his group's involvement with Walton.
"This is the first time that I've run into it," Bell said. "Typically what we do is we do a very thorough background check. In this particular instance, and if you ask me a thousand times I'm going to give you the same answer – I don't know why we didn't go through that process with him. So it was just kind of like the perfect storm. We just assumed fool-hardheartedly he was legit and telling the truth. Normally during football and basketball, we follow a very rigid process. But this particular time, we didn't."
The Seven Bridges Group paid for round trip flights to Florida and Boston, purportedly for training, along with cell phone bills.
Bell said the group became suspicious of their client in December, when he got spring training reporting dates wrong. The group says it investigated Walton's claims and discovered he was not signed to the Blue Jays organization.
Bell said the relationship ended formally in January. At the time of publication, Bell said the group would not pursue restitution through legal means.
"He admitted to what he was doing and he apologized and all this stuff," Bell said. "I was like OK, whatever. I honestly felt that after we called him out on the carpet he would go away and this would be a scared-straight scenario, but apparently not."
According to Aumauinuuese S. Puni, CEO of ASP Consulting based out of Riverside, Calif., Walton approached ASP about representation in February. Puni said the company told Walton he had to wait on a background check, but in that time he began to ask for advances, including $300 to pay a cell phone bill.
Puni says the agency never signed Walton or advanced him any money.
It was about this time Walton reconnected with Cummins, his former liaison to Bell with TSBG. Cummins had since left TSBG to start Red Eye, and knew nothing of the reasons behind the split between Walton and TSGB.
"As far as this guy, I thought, 'hey, once he was reported to these other (agents) he would actually stop'," Puni said. "Not every single sports agent talks to each other but we need to put it out there so they know about it. I was the number four or five guy this guy made contact with."
The death of an avatar
Over the last two weeks, Cummins came to realize he had invested his time, his money and his trust, in Montaous Walton, fictitious baseball player. For nearly two months, he ignored his instincts, listened when he should have questioned. Eventually, the dots connected.
"I may have been misled by my thoughts of my journey as a player," said Cummins, who played two years in the independent Frontier League. "I loved baseball so much, it was my passion, that was what I put my life into. Then he comes along and he's got this little pedigree, and it hit the right nerve. It just ended up in the wrong place."
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Jim, your work at OMC has been very good, and this well-researched article about such a strange story is about as good as it gets. Fascinating and well told.
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