SEATTLE -- Mariners legend Edgar Martinez has been known for his charity work in the Seattle area since his playing days, but the retired designated hitter doesn't tire of giving back to his community.
On Wednesday morning, those at Northgate Elementary School were the latest to feel the compassion Martinez has for the community as he surprised the students at an assembly. The visit was part of a joint campaign between Target and Major League Baseball to honor teachers and raise awareness about the importance of education.
In partnership with PEOPLE magazine, Target and Major League Baseball have hosted the Target presents "PEOPLE All-Star Teachers" program, for which fans have been able to nominate teachers in their communities. Each Major League team currently has three nominated teachers that fans can vote for, with the winning teachers earning a trip to Minneapolis, where they will be celebrated during the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field.
The Mariners will be represented by Bob Bruce of Elmira, Ore., Bob Porto of Falmouth, Mass., or Kevin Zelko of Seattle.
"I think education is the key for progress, economically and culturally," Martinez said. "We have to concentrate on education on an economy like where we're going. ... It is important for the growth. It's important if we have a community that is strong. We all benefit from [it]."
In part of a campaign to identify schools that were in need of new libraries, Target and Heart of America renovated Northgate Elementary's library last fall, donating 2,000 new books and iPads and sending seven books home with each kid. On Wednesday, Target donated $5,000 worth of supplies to the school and sent three books home with each kid.
Target has given five percent of its profit to communities since 1946 and is on track to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015.
"The budgets are really tight, and our families, with an 80 percent eligibility for free and reduced lunch, don't have the means to have extra supplies coming in from home, so it comes out of the school budget," principal Stan Jaskot said. "So this allows us to have a little bit more leeway to do more instructional things, maybe to bring more staff in to work with kids and for tutors, as opposed to just having to do those basic supplies. So it's a huge win for us."
It also hits home for Martinez, whose foundation supports teachers of color through scholarships, mentoring and professional development.
"You acquire knowledge through reading [in] different subjects," Martinez said. "That's why it's so important. One of the ways to acquire knowledge and prepare yourself for the future is by reading."
Josh Liebeskind is a contributor to MLB.com.