Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tino Martinez savors place in Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame

Tino Martinez met Ted Williams only once, a chance passing at Fenway Park in the early 1990s when Martinez was first establishing himself as a major-leaguer. Martinez, the quiet kid from Tampa, stumbled through a forgettable version of hello; Williams, the game's pre-eminent expert on hitting, replied with words as memorable now as that afternoon:

"You've got a great swing."

Martinez swung that way for most of 16 seasons, piling up strong numbers (a .271 average, 339 homers, 1,271 RBIs) and, most impressively, four World Series championships. And tonight, in a ceremony at Tropicana Field, Martinez will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame.

"Obviously I'm not going to the major-league baseball Hall of Fame, but to be considered and have the criteria to get into the Ted Williams Hall is quite an honor," Martinez said. "I can't think of anything better, (other) than the major-league baseball Hall of Fame, than the Ted Williams Hall."

Martinez is 44 now, six-plus years into retirement, though he still looks as if he could handle himself in the batter's box. His greatest success came during seven seasons with the Yankees, and he has a job with a fancy title, a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman, but spends most of his time in and around his native Tampa, he and his wife keeping tabs on three teenagers.

He pulls on a uniform during spring training, talks with minor-leaguers, offers his opinion on players when asked. He has also dabbled in TV.

Though without the legacy of the Yankees' core royalty — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte — Martinez is treated as one of the most beloved during regular return visits to New York. Two dramatic World Series home runs — a grand slam in the 1998 opener, a tying blast in Game 4 in 2001 — certainly keep the volume turned up.

"When you play the game, you don't expect that type of stuff to happen," Martinez said. "To go back to a stadium like Yankee Stadium and get that kind of reaction every time, that people remember what you did as a player and what we did as a team, that's a great feeling."

And, he laughs, with some benefits in the big city: "I've never had a problem getting a reservation."

Martinez — who was drafted out of Jefferson High by the Red Sox but opted for the University of Tampa — had a broad experience in the majors and few complaints, marveling at the good fortune to play as well and as long as he did, as well as the good fortune (career earnings in excess of $50 million) he played for.

He came up as the Mariners rose to prominence and starred for the Yankees, then spent two years with the Cardinals, one at home with the Devil Rays and finished with a 2005 encore in New York. He played for, and learned from, three of the game's best managers: Lou Piniella (Seattle and Tampa Bay), Joe Torre (New York) and Tony La Russa (St. Louis). "They are all great, and I seemed to hit each at the right time," Martinez said.

He had the interesting experiences of replacing Don Mattingly in pinstripes and Mark McGwire in Cardinals red. And he won, making the playoffs nine times in his final 11 seasons.

Regrets? Actually, he has a few.

"I would like to have won a Gold Glove," Martinez said, and with cause. Especially in 1999, when Martinez had a .995 fielding percentage (seven errors in 158 games for the Yankees) and the award was voted to Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro, who spent most of the season at DH, playing only 28 games at first.

A fifth World Series champion­ship "would have been nice," as the Yankees — who led three games to two due in large part to Martinez's dramatic two-out, ninth-inning Game 4 homer — couldn't close out the Diamondbacks in 2001.

So, too, would have been an MVP award. Martinez hit .296 with 44 homers and 141 RBIs in 1997 but finished second to Seattle's Ken Griffey (.304/56/147).

And there was talk of catching on somewhere to get to 2,000 hits — he finished with 1,925, plus 83 in the postseason — but decided, "You don't stick around for the numbers."

Tonight will be something of a coronation for a career Martinez defines as "productive."

He will see many familiar faces in the crowd of 750-plus — presented by Yankees official Ray Negron and Julia Steinbrenner, granddaughter of George, who was a big Ted Williams fan himself — but not much family.

Daughter Victoria's Academy of the Holy Names basketball team is playing for the district championship in Tampa, and the rest of the clan will be there cheering her on.

"These days," Martinez said, "I'm down on the totem pole."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Published: 04/21/18
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Published: 04/21/18
Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

By now, we presume you've had a few hours to digest the Rays' improbable 10-inning triumph Friday night.So instead of rehashing the whole bizarre body of work, how 'bout a closer look at the workmanship. Specifically, Chris Archer's.Partially lost in...
Published: 04/21/18