Drew Martinez’s message resonates with RailCats
By Ryan Haskell Post-Tribune correspondent July 27, 2013 11:24PM
RailCats center fielder Drew Martinez makes a catch for an out off the bat of Kansas City's Devin Goodwin (not pictured) in the top of the fifth inning at the Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., Wednesday, June 26, 2013. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:49AM
GARY — A simple text message is all it took to get the wheels in motion to bring Drew Martinez to the RailCats.
Martinez, who was drafted by the Angels in the 10th round in 2011 out of Memphis, was released following the Angels’ spring training four months ago and texted former college teammate Zac Mitchell just to see how things were going.
Mitchell mentioned that the RailCats had an opening in center field and Martinez texted back saying he was interested in the spot.
“I enjoyed my time out there and was disappointed I was cut but it’s a business and I understand,” Martinez said of his time with the Angels. “So I texted Zac Mitchell and he texted Skip (manager Greg Tagert) and one thing led to another and I was up here.
“It’s kind of funny how it happened. I was just texting (Mitchell) seeing how he was doing and he said they needed a center fielder and I said I’d play. I feel fortunate that I texted him at the moment and I’m here now.”
The ninth-year Gary manager feels just as fortunate. He wasted no time deciding what to do even though he had already set his starting outfield for the 2013 season.
“Out of spring training we had already set our sights when we signed center fielder Chris Colton (in October 2012); we were going to go with a veteran outfield,” Tagert said. “But at the same time, I didn’t want to discount if the right guy came available — maybe a little fresher — and when he became available we recognized his background and Zac Mitchell, who played with him, gave him a high recommendation and we thought the worst thing that could happen was we were deep in the outfield so let a couple of guys battle it out.”
Martinez wasted no time in spring training showing off his skills and he earned the opening day starter job.
“As fate had it, Colton tweaked his hamstring and opened the door and, pardon the cliché, but Drew Martinez just knocked that door down and he’s been riding it ever since,” Tagert said. “He’s been a terrific find for us. He’s a solid center fielder and solid offensively and it strengthens those corner outfield positions with (Mike) Massaro and (Adam) Klein.”
It helps that Martinez has some good genes. His father, Chito, was the first Belizean-born player in the major leagues. He played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1991 to ’93.
The 24-year-old said the two talk almost every night.
“He knows the game and he knows the grind and he’s always been there for me and my little brother,” Martinez said. “I’m fortunate to have a father that played in the big leagues. He never pressured me to play baseball. He let me play as many sports as I wanted to.
“It just happened that I picked baseball and it’s something easy for me to relate to with him and especially him having all the knowledge he does I don’t know why I wouldn’t play it.”
Massaro, the right fielder, said the team has improved immensely on defense and it shows record-wise. The RailCats finished 50-50 last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
But Gary was 39-27 in through Friday and would end its two-year playoff drought if the season ended today.
“His all-around game is a perfect fit for us,” Massaro said. “He knows the game well. He’s been around. He’s got the knowledge from his dad and that makes him better and makes him a valuable asset for us. He’s done a great job and it’s been a world of difference for us in center field and he’s definitely won some games for us in center field.”