Martinez returns to Wrigley: 'I've learned a lot'

Former Cubs player, coach back in Chicago as Nats' manager vs. mentor Maddon

August 10th, 2018

CHICAGO -- Dave Martinez made his Major League debut here, played with the Cubs for four seasons and returned as a bench coach to help guide them to their first World Series championship in more than a century. Along the way, he began imagining what it would be like to one day become a Major League manager.

Martinez returned to Wrigley Field on Friday as the manager for the Nationals, and as he made the walk from his office in the visiting clubhouse toward the news conference room, he was stopped numerous times by stadium workers and former Cubs employees who wanted to say hello, and he spent some time catching up on the field with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein.

This first season as the Nationals' manager has gone anything but smoothly for Martinez, as he commands a team that is underachieving its high preseason aspirations, but that has not stopped him from enjoying the ride so far.

"I've learned a lot in a short period of time," Martinez said prior to Friday's series opener against the Cubs. "Especially adversity. Over the winter, you put down on paper our lineup and it's like, 'Holy moly, this is unbelievable.' And then all of a sudden, you don't have that lineup and we have to create things and make things happen."

Washington begins this three-game set at Wrigley Field in third place in the National League East, 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Phillies. Martinez has had his ups and downs in his first season in D.C., and now he prepares to face the man who got him into coaching in the first place. Before the 2008 season, Maddon asked Martinez if he had any interest in becoming a bench coach, and he joined Maddon's staff with the Rays, and the two would operate on the same staff for the next decade with Tampa Bay and Chicago.

Maddon lobbied for Martinez to get a managing job for a few years before he finally landed the job with the Nats.

"Parenting, either you're an uncle or you're a dad," Maddon said about the difference between bench coach and manager. "When you're holding somebody else's baby and when you're holding your own, it's entirely different. … The difference is that you're able to make the final decision and not have to advise. It's a big difference."

That was also the biggest difference Martinez pointed out Friday. In the past, he would make suggestions to Maddon, but ultimately the final decision rested with the manager. Now, it's on him to make those final calls.

"Those are the distinct differences -- holding one's baby vs. holding it as Uncle Joey," Maddon said.

Martinez and Maddon have talked a few times during the season, especially after the death of their friend and longtime Cubs consultant Dr. Ken Ravizza, who passed away at the age of 70 last month. Martinez wears the initials K.R. written on the top of his cap for each game and teared up when speaking about Ravizza on Friday.

"He taught me how to be positive," Martinez said. "He taught me how to process everything and how to deal with individual players on and off the field. I went to him more than just to help me on the field, off the field, too. He was a true friend and a mentor."