BOSTON — Pedro Martinez’s life in the United States has featured both fame and fortune. Never once has his humility wavered.
Martinez arrived at Fenway Park on Tuesday after being elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He greeted reporters with an emphatic, “Hola,” which was a clear testament to both his infectious personality and his indestructible connection with his native Dominican Republic.
“I have always been able to recognize where I come from. People identify themselves with me. They relate themselves to me, because I guess I’ve never forgotten that I lived in a shack (and) that I came over from a poor community, from a poor family,” Martinez said Tuesday while reflecting on his Dominican roots. “And I remain there. A lot people that actually get the same feeling and know that I feel for those people relate to me.”
Martinez grew up in poverty with five brothers and sisters. It was a far less luxurious life than the one he’s carved out since coming to America in the mid 1980s. But even after earning millions of dollars and etching his name into Major League Baseball lore, Martinez can’t help but look back favorably on the trying times. The experiences helped shape the man he’d eventually become.
“My mom and dad were the best examples we could ever have when it came to integrity,” Martinez said. “Respect your job, honor your job, because it is given to you by God — not by me or by men. Never surrender it to anybody, because it wasn’t given to you by men.
“If you’re going to charge the mound (and) you’re going to fight me, (do) you think I’m going to go away from the mound? No. You didn’t give me my job. My job came from someone else, so I’m not giving it away. That’s integrity, that’s a statement and that’s fearless, and that’s (saying) I’m here to stay. And that’s why today has me here.”
Martinez’s older brother, Ramon, paved the way for the Hall of Famer’s success by embarking on a successful major league career of his own. The two even played together with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, though it was their early days that Pedro remembers most fondly.
Pedro describes Ramon, also a former pitcher, as a super athlete who could hit and play basketball. While growing up, Pedro wanted nothing more than to follow around his older brother and carry his bag, as he was the perfect role model for a fellow aspiring baseball player.
“Ramon was a good hero to have,” Martinez said. “Not only that, but I got to see a lot of him on TV after he became a pro. He would bring me the packages of baseball cards, and I got to see a lot of those players. Back then in the 80s, those games weren’t transmitted on a day-to-day basis.”
Martinez reached legend status in his native country during his seven seasons with the Red Sox from 1998 through 2004. The three-time Cy Young winner couldn’t help but wonder Tuesday how everyone back home was reacting to the news of him becoming the first Dominican player to punch his ticket to Cooperstown since Juan Marichal in 1983.
“I ask so many people in the Dominican to please record what’s going on in the streets because every time I pitched when I was here in Fenway Park, it was an event in the Dominican,” Martinez said, looking back on his playing days. “It was ‘Curfew Day.’ That’s what they called it. ‘Curfew Day’ in the Dominican. Pedro’s pitching.”
It’s likely the Dominican won’t have to wait another three decades to celebrate a Hall of Fame induction. David Ortiz, Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre are among those who should garner consideration in the coming years.
But it’s also a certainty that there never will be another Pedro Martinez.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@leahysean