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Ahead of MLB debut, Martin reflects on mentor

@Sullivan_Ranger
April 19, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Brett Martin was called up on Friday and and made his Major League debut by setting the side down in order in the ninth inning of a 7-2 loss to the Astros at Globe Life Park. Six months ago, the call to the big leagues was

ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Brett Martin was called up on Friday and and made his Major League debut by setting the side down in order in the ninth inning of a 7-2 loss to the Astros at Globe Life Park.

Six months ago, the call to the big leagues was the last thing he could have expected. He was coming off a tough season at Double-A Frisco and the final numbers were not good, at all: a 2-10 record, a 7.28 ERA and a .357 opponents’ batting average. His confidence was shot.

“Last year was terrible to be honest,” Martin said. “It was awful.”

Then, in November, he got a chance to sit down with George “Joey” Seaver -- his former mentor in Tennessee and his first pitching coach with the Rangers.

Seaver started working with Martin when he was a 13-year-old growing up in Morristown, Tenn. The talk may have been a life-changing moment for a young left-hander in need of one.

“We talked for two hours, catching up on everything,” said Martin, a fourth-round Draft pick out of Walters State (Tenn.) Community College in 2014. “We played catch and threw and then talked for a while. Just more mental stuff that I needed to hear. Just talking to him kind of clicked with me. He said, 'You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Do what feels right for you. You have to be confident in yourself.'"

Less than a month later, Seaver was gone. The 55-year-old, who had spent the last year coaching in the Pirates’ farm system, passed away on Dec. 3 from a heart attack.

"That’s something that stuck in the back of my mind," Martin said of Seaver's advice. "And I carried it through Spring Training, and into the season. I just think of him and that conversation he had with me.”

So when the call up to the big leagues came, Martin knew who he had to contact -- Diana Seaver, George's widow.

“It was tough,” Martin said. “I called her this morning to let her know the news. It was pretty emotional. The last few days have been pretty emotional. All I can do is think about him. Always wanted to call him and let him know. ... But I know he is watching.

"He was like a father figure to me. He taught me a lot about life and a little bit about baseball. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”

Seaver has had that kind of impact on many young players after more than 30 years as a college and professional pitching coach. He played at Walters State, and then coached both there and at Carson Newman University.

The Rangers hired him in 2014, the same year Martin transferred from the University of Tennessee, so the two missed each other there. But Martin was drafted by the Rangers and was sent to the Arizona Rookie League, where Seaver was the pitching coach. In all, Seaver coached 30 players who were drafted by Major League teams.

“He was just a great human being to be around,” Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler said. “True professional. He showed up every day to give his best for his players. He was the definition of a man with perfect values. The perfect example of how a man should go about his business. A lot of people wanted to be like him.”

The Rangers switched Martin from starter to reliever midway through last season and saw a different pitcher in Spring Training. He didn’t allow an earned run (four unearned) over nine innings while striking out 11. He began the season at Triple-A Nashville and allowed just one run in eight innings with 10 strikeouts before being called up.

“The calmness of Brett was what impressed me the most in Spring Training,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s fighting for a job, didn’t have a great year statistically as a starter. Comes in as a reliever, 'Here it comes, I’m coming after you' mentality. The conviction behind his pitches is something that really impressed me.”

Martin knows exactly where that came from -- his talk with Seaver.

“Going through that struggle helped me a lot to get where I am today,” Martin said. “I feel really good, really confident in myself. A lot more than last year. That was the big thing, a lack of confidence. I think I’ve found that this year.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.