Edgar Martinez was known by Seattle Mariners fans for strolling calmly up to the plate and delivering the big hit when it was needed most.
Martinez, who retired after the 2004 season after spending his entire 18-year career with the Mariners, did it again Thursday for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.
The seven-time Major League Baseball all-star stepped up in front of nearly two dozen children and facilitators taking part in a baseball camp, and humbly talked about his own beginnings in baseball. He also talked about the importance of discipline and dedication, but he wasn’t just talking about success in baseball.
“He was just real and passionate about following your dreams, whether it be sports or the arts or becoming a doctor,” said Sarah Murphy, the director of development for the Boys and Girls Club/BFC. “The exciting thing for us was Edgar’s passion for education and the alignment it has with the Boys and Girls Club as far as academic success, good character, citizenship and leadership.”
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Before Martinez was the keynote speaker for the Dinner with Friends benefit later Thursday night, he made several kids’ day when he took the time to grab a glove and play some catch.
Unfortunately, the Mariners’ career leader in runs (1,219), doubles (514), RBIs (1,261) and on-base percentage (.418), never got to show off his hitting stroke for the kids.
“I can’t see what’s coming. I can’t see anything. My playing days are over. Now I can have fun watching,” said Martinez, who is approaching his fifth year of Hall-of-Fame eligibility after receiving 35.9 percent of the votes in 2012. Martinez will need 75 percent of the vote to enter the Hall of Fame, but he could have at least 10 more seasons to get there.
Players remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years, as long as they are named on at least five percent of the ballots each year.
Martinez has devoted himself to helping the communities that supported him for so many years — even the Tri-Cities.
“I’ve been here a couple times. It’s sunnier here (than Seattle),” he said, shining a friendly smile. “It’s important when we can help different areas of the state and help the kids that need this support. I love to do it.
“When the kids get all the services, it has to go with education and healthy choices. Building character is important for their future and the future of the community.”
Anthony Hernandez, a 9-year-old student at nearby Emerson Elementary school, got to show off a strong right arm with several accurate throws to Martinez. Hernandez, a big-time baseball fan, said he won’t forget the gesture and the memories he made with the M’s’ former star.
“He said he watched the World Series, and that’s what got him to play baseball,” Hernandez said.
Unfortunately, Martinez never got to play in a World Series. He came close when the Mariners reached the American League Championship Series in 2005 before falling to the Cleveland Indians.
Martinez, has not ruled out a return to the game — perhaps as a coach or a manager — but he is enjoying time with his own family and giving back to the community.
“Maybe the day will come when it’s time for me to do something like that,” he said. “At this time, I have other things going on.”