View Full Version : Pirates' Russell Martin endures long road to become catcher

08-07-2013, 01:47 PM
Russell Martin's professional catching career began with a man named Jumbo and almost ended on a slider to the groin.

It was 2002 in the Los Angeles Dodgers' instructional fall league. Martin was a man without a major league position, seen as not quick enough for shortstop, not powerful enough for third base. Off of a tip from Martin's college coach, the Dodgers decided to try him out at catcher.

The first bullpen session went about as perfectly as Martin could have imagined. He was catching a man named Jumbo Diaz, who weighed more than 300 pounds and threw close to triple digits without much command. For 20 minutes in a squat, Martin caught almost everything with a resounding pop from his mitt. He felt good. The Dodgers felt good.

Next up was Mike Keirstead, who threw in the mid-90s with movement. On the fifth pitch, Keirstead gave Martin a sign he didn't understand. A slider was coming in his way, unbeknownst to the new catcher.

The pitch came in fast and hard, clipping the Montreal native's thumb and hitting him in a spot not ideal for a man to be hit by a baseball. For 20 seconds, writhing on the ground, Martin said to himself, "I'm done. I'm never catching ever again. I'm retiring right now."

He laughs about it now, mainly because the switch worked out. Eight years into an All-Star career, moving to catcher might have been the best thing to happen to this first-year Pirates player.

It was a long, tough journey, one that started with a baby, a tennis ball, and a dad with the perfect work schedule.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/pirates/pirates-russell-martin-endures-long-road-to-become-catcher-698225/#ixzz2bJJQD7th