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YORK -- Tino Martinez was more nervous on Saturday, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, than at any point during his career as a player.
The same could be said of Martinez's experience as an onlooker for New York's AL Division Series triumph over the Orioles, which didn't allow him to actually affect the game with a bat in his hands.
As a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman, Martinez has more than a casual interest in the team for which he played seven years and has since thrown out multiple "slowball" first pitches.
The former first baseman watched each of the Yankees' home games in the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, witnessing what he called "an amazing moment in Yankee history" when Raul Ibanez hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning of Game 3 against the Orioles, before hitting a walk-off homer in the 12th.
"I thought it was fantastic," Martinez said. "An unbelievable night."
The magic wasn't limited to Wednesday night, however. Ibanez came through a few hours after Martinez's ceremonial first pitch, hitting a game-tying homer with two outs in the Yankees' four-run ninth inning, helping send Game 1 into extra innings. With that homer, Ibanez became the first player in Major League history to hit three home runs in the ninth inning or later in a single postseason.
The 44-year-old Martinez was part of plenty of success in New York, winning four World Series titles and playing in one other Fall Classic. He hit a grand slam to give the Yankees a seventh-inning lead against the Padres in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, but perhaps his most memorable homer came in the 2001 World Series, which the Yankees lost in to the D-backs.
Like Ibanez, Martinez homered to tie the game in the ninth inning, although he did not come off the bench that night, in Game 4, which the Yankees won an inning later when Derek Jeter homered off Byung-Hyun Kim, who allowed Martinez's shot.
"The electricity in the stadium when Raul hit it, that's what it felt like -- those days back then," Martinez said. "I was excited as a fan, too, though, because the team has been playing pretty good, but they hadn't had that big moment yet."
Martinez believes Ibanez's performance is the type that might long be remembered as a momentum turner if it helps lift the Yankees to their 28th World Series title.
"The fans have been kind of spoiled with all the World Series, but after '09, you think they'll win again, and they haven't won in a few years," Martinez said. "This is a big year for them. They want to win it. One of those moments is one of the things that can propel the team to a World Series championship."
The Yankees must first navigate the ALCS against the Tigers, who "have always been tough on the Yankees," Martinez said, particularly last season, when they eliminated New York in a five-game ALDS.
Jeter said the disappointment of last year's ALDS exit doesn't provide much motivation this year, and Martinez agrees.
"I don't get revenge," Martinez said. "No, they beat you last time. You're just trying to get to the World Series. Whether it's the Tigers, the Angels or whoever may be in your way, you just want to beat them, period. You're not going to get any more satisfaction beating the Tigers than you would the Orioles or somebody to get to the World Series. You just want to get to the World Series."