Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Domingo Martinez, These Days - 15

Originally published March 16, 2013
Domingo Martinez' path to the majors was blocked, The Associated Press wrote, but he was doing his best to perform when he did get that chance.

In September 1993, his second September in the bigs, Martinez knocked a bases-loaded single as a pinch hitter in one game, and knocked a home run the night before.

"Domingo one of these days is going to get an opportunity," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston told The AP, "if not here, somewhere. He'll get an opportunity in the near future. He's a big player"

Martinez eventually did get his opportunity. The somewhere he got it, though, was not in the U.S. It was in Japan.

In a professional career that spanned nearly two decades, Martinez took advantage of that opportunity in Japan, playing there with success for five seasons, becoming a fan-favorite and earning the nickname "Maru-chan."

Martinez' professional career began in 1984, signed by the Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent out of his native Dominican Republic.

Martinez first hit the field in 1985, in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He moved to single-A Ventura County in 1986. In late-May 1986, Martinez picked up three hits in one game, including a home run, according to The Los Angeles Times.

"I had been having problems with my hitting because I was opening up too soon," Martinez told The Times after that game. "Today I felt good. I was staying back and letting the pitches come to me."

Martinez made AA Knoxville for 1988 and AAA Syracuse in 1991. In September 1992, Martinez made Toronto.

In seven games for the Blue Jays, Martinez picked up five hits in eight at bats. He returned to Toronto for eight more games in 1993, getting four hits in 14 at bats, his last at bats in the bigs.

Martinez moved to the White Sox system for 1994, then the Cardinals in 1995 and Orioles in 1996, playing at AAA each year. Then, in 1997, his contract was sold to Japan, to the Seibu Lions.

Martinez played two years for Seibu and three for the Yomiuri Giants. After being picked up by Yomiuri for 2000, Martinez was an early leader in All-Star balloting. He also had an early 16 home runs, The Japan Times wrote.

"Japanese baseball is not easy," Martinez told The Japan Times that June. "People see me hitting the ball up there (off the back wall above and beyond the Tokyo Dome bleachers) in batting practice, and they think it should be simple to do it in a game. But in B.P., you tell the pitcher what to throw and know what's coming."

Over his five years there, Martinez ended up 104 total home runs, knocking in 350. He also hit .293, according to The Japan Times.

In 2002 Martinez was back stateside, hoping for another shot at the major leagues.

"I think it'll be all right," Martinez told The Baltimore Sun that spring. "I'll try to do the best I can."

His best wasn't good enough then. He didn't make it back to the bigs and isn't recorded as playing again. Martinez' career totaled 17 seasons as a pro, two with time in the bigs and those five seasons in Japan.

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