September 04, 2009
Now with the Phillies, Pedro Martinez(notes) recently began what might be the final leg of an amazing major league career. He's on a unique journey, growing up deeply spiritual in the Dominican Republic, coming up through the Dodgers chain after his taller brother Ramon, dominating first with the Expos and finding superstardom with the Red Sox.
On a recent road swing, Martinez took a break from his comeback to tell the Answer Man a thing or two about where he's been and where he might be headed.
David Brown: You're listed at 5-foot-11, not so tall for a pitcher. If you were as tall as Ramon, how much better would you have been?
Pedro Martinez: I don't think I'd be better. I know that I'll never be that height [laughs].
DB: What's Ramon up to these days?
PM: Ramon is working a little bit with the Dodgers and most of the time with his company, a construction company back home.
DB: You have another brother, Jesus. Did he pitch for a while?
PM: He did. He got to the big leagues [in 1997]. He got called up for a month, but they never gave him the ball. That's why I lost the 2002 Cy Young — because I gave my opportunities to pitch to another rookie kid. [Voters] said I was "sitting on my numbers."
DB: Josh Hancock.
PM: Yes. My brother never got an opportunity to throw a pitch, and I didn't want the same thing to happen to another young kid.
PM: First of all: Dedicate my life to God and my family. After that, I guess I want to go on with my foundation and help the community. Help the kids and help develop a better neighborhood in my area where I grew up.
DB: You've built at least one church.
PM: There's two.
DB: Would you ever become a priest?
PM: I have no idea. I have no idea, but I want to be around God. Before, if I wasn't in baseball, I wanted to become a doctor. Anything with medicine. I have a passion for that. Now, I don't know if I'll have the time to take on medicine after I'm done. It will be hard to go back to working so hard, but I still have a passion for it.
DB: What's your favorite part of the Bible?
PM: Probably Proverbs. That's the guidance that God wants to give you. If you want to follow some good steps, it would Proverbs, all over.
DB: What about like countryman Juan Marichal, becoming minister of sport, or even running for president?
PM: I doubt that I will get involved with politics. That's something I don't have in me. I don't feel like I be effective [enough to] go for that.
DB: How would you like Boston to remember you?
PM: First of all, as a player who enjoyed every single moment he spent there. Someone that's really proud of being in that organization and ... I want to be remembered as one of the 25 that won it for Boston for the first time in 86 years.
DB: Assuming you get there, would you wear a Red Sox cap on your Hall of Fame plaque?
PM: I have no idea, but I would love to. Either that one or a Montreal hat. It's not up to me, it's up to the league, but I think Boston without a doubt. I'll take it.
DB: Which kinds of flowers are your favorite?
PM: Orchids. All of them. They're so delicate and tender. So beautiful.
DB: Do you talk to them?
DB: What do you say?
PM: I pray for them and tell them they have to get better and that I'm sorry about not taking care of them on time.
DB: Do you feel guilty?
PM: I just ... sometimes, I just don't have the time.
DB: What got you into gardening in the first place?
PM: My mom. She would spend a lot of time in the garden and I used to spend a lot of time with my mom.
DB: Why use a softball to train?
PM: I build arm strength. Actually, it helps me find a better release point. I've used it almost my whole career, though some days I take it away and don't use it. Mostly, I use it during the winter.
DB: How off-the-hook was the Raul Mondesi Softball Classic? You threw out the first pitch.
PM: It was very nice. Nice to see the community, a very humble community. Raul is doing great. He's into politics. He's a senator for his community, San Cristobal.
DB: Fifty years from now, could you imagine a major league team playing in the Dominican Republic?
PM: Ooh, small island, with the resources we have, I have a lot of doubt. A big-league team in the Dominican? I have a lot of doubt. It would be something interesting.
DB: Are the streets of Santo Domingo filled with people wearing Yankees caps?
PM: No, that's not true. That was never true, at least as long as I've been in the big leagues. We do have a big community of fans in New York so you'll see Yankees caps. But if you're talking about Dominican fans, the biggest you'd ever want to see was when me and Manny [Ramirez] and David [Ortiz] were in Boston. That's when you'd see almost total support from the Dominicans for one team.
DB: Is Manny the kind of guy to pick up a check, pay for dinner?
PM: Yes. With [the media], I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't. With me, he would.
DB: What about you and Don Zimmer — best two out of three?
PM: He's an old man. I respect him so much. I don't hold any grudges. He made a mistake but we're all humans. It's forgotten. I have nothing bad to say. Those are things that happen in the game.
DB: Under what circumstances could he have knocked you down?
PM: Maybe, next time, if I wasn't looking, he could have knocked me over. It would have been easy to do if I wasn't looking. But if I'm looking ... I would doubt it.
PM: There are a lot of people who have Haitian blood that are playing in the big leagues. And have before. The thing is, they're not born and raised in Haiti. Like, for example, I'm a U.S. citizen but I am Dominican. And these guys, they don't say they're born in Haiti, or that their parents are Haitian. But at the same time, they are Haitian. There's a lot of them. Like, maybe... Antonio Alfonseca(notes), [for example].
DB: The '99 playoffs against the Indians, where you threw the six innings of no-hit ball. Possibly the defining moment in your career. Why didn't you just start that game?
PM: Because the doctors said I shouldn't be able to throw more than 35 pitches if needed. I went against [manager] Jimy Williams and what the medical people thought.
DB: Did you pay for that later [physically]?
PM: Yes. Big-time.
DB: Would you do it again?
PM: Oh, yeah.
DB: Did you ever find out who Karim Garcia was?
PM: He's a player. Now I know he's a player. And back then I knew he was a player, but not the type of player that should be second-guessing.
PM: [Chuckles]. Are the little humans your friends? Hell, no. That's not possible.
DB: You don't believe in life on other planets?
PM: It's yet to be found out. I believe in God. That's all I believe in.
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