ROANOKE – When Trent Monge was a senior in 1989, playing in the Pantagraph all-star baseball game required some work off the field. Players went around town and got people to put their names on a ballot from the newspaper and vote for them. That's how Monge and three of hits teammates — Chris Bonner, Scott Veatch and Kevin Wheelwright — made the Area squad.
Things have changed in the last 30 years. The ballot ended in 2000, with the squads now selected by the paper’s sports staff.
Ben Monge was recently on a fishing trip in Canada when he got the word he would be part of Sunday’s 5 p,m. contest against the Intercity at the Corn Crib in Normal.
"Every once in a while he'll get into (the 1989 game), especially after he broke me the news that I made the game," said Ben of his father.
Ben Monge actually will be the third Monge to represent the Area.
His uncle, Miles Monge, played a starring role in the Area's 12-10 victory in ‘87, as he went two-for-two with a double and triple. He also scored twice and pitched three and two-thirds innings of hitless relief with six strikeouts to get the save. Miles would go on to pitch for Illinois State University.
Among those in the attendance was younger brother, Trent Monge, who had a burning desire to be in it two years later.
"With my brother participating, I had to play. That's what drove us," he said. "I remember I hit a triple, and I did not have too many triples. I had more home runs than triples. I think I threw pretty well. I do not know if I gave up any hits."
Trent Monge's memory of a 16-11 loss to the Intercity is pretty accurate. He smacked a triple, scored a run and also pitched one hitless inning in which he walked two and gave up a run. The Area coach that year was Rockets’ skipper Bill Zeman.
Ben Monge did not seem destined to be in the game. He remembers being "the kid growing up picking dandelions and throwing them up dirt in the air and watching it hit the ground" during games.
But, his attitude about baseball changed in the summer before he entered high school.
"I went over to play for the Eureka Legion with a completely different group of guys and really fell in love with the game there," he said. "After that, I made my goal I'm going to be a college baseball player. I'm going to play the game after high school and as far as I can after that."
Monge was a varsity regular all four years. This past season, he posted team highs in average (.400) and runs batted in (24). He played first base and also pitched, as Monge was three-for-three in save situations. He struck out 23 batters in 20 innings. He also made good on his goal of becoming a college player. He will attend Illinois Central College in East Peoria, where his father played, in the fall and hopes to land somewhere after two years with the Cougars.
While the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Monge does not look like a swimmer, he felt the four winters as part of the Metamora co-op helped his baseball development.
"I think it was awesome for keeping my arm healthy, especially using your shoulder in the pool," he said. "You cannot beat the cardio in the pool and the core strength is huge. I do not think I would have seen the arm strength on the mound improve as much over the last two years as I did if I would have been playing basketball."
The baseball season has allowed the Monges plenty of time together. Trent Monge serves as an assistant coach for the Rockets and head coach Wade Hunter.
According to Ben Monge, that means analyzing the game together in the dugout after cleaning up the field ... and then over at grandfather Myron's house ... and later at home ... and maybe the next morning, too.
"He's a big review guy with the (score)book and stats," said Ben, smiling. "But in all honesty, I would not have it any other way. I really think my development so late in my baseball career I would not have gotten to the point I needed to be if that was not the case."
Now, all Ben Monge has to do is get two hits for the Area on Sunday and he'll have lifetime bragging rights over his father.