SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez returned home from New York on Tuesday, arriving for the first time as "Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez" to the ballpark on the street bearing his name.As he walked through the double doors at T-Mobile Park, Martinez was greeted by the entire Mariners front office, which
SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez returned home from New York on Tuesday, arriving for the first time as "Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez" to the ballpark on the street bearing his name.
As he walked through the double doors at T-Mobile Park, Martinez was greeted by the entire Mariners front office, which had gathered to form a tunnel for his red-carpet entry.
For the low-key Martinez, it was yet another reminder that Seattle always has been and always will be the place he belongs.
John Ellis, the Mariners' chairman emeritus who oversaw Martinez's career in Seattle, noted all of the statistics and accomplishments racked up by one of the game's greatest designated hitters during his career, but Ellis said one thing stood out above all the rest.
"The number most impressive to me is 12-18-82, the date he first signed with the Mariners," Ellis said. "Here 36 years later, he's still a Mariner, a Seattle Mariner, and he always will be one. That's why he's so beloved in this community and region. That's why, last week there was a collective celebration here, pure joy in the Pacific Northwest as well as Puerto Rico."
Martinez has a special place in the hearts of Mariners fans because he's the hero who never left. Even after retirement, he remained in Seattle with his wife, Holli, and their three children, first as a businessman and most recently as the Mariners' hitting coach the past 3 1/2 seasons.
It's not just the Edgar Martinez Drive street signs and Edgar's Cantina restaurant that have made him part of the region's fiber, but his community involvement and a humble personality that suits Seattle perfectly.
"Staying in Seattle was a combination of a great relationship with the organization and also with the fans," Martinez said. "From the beginning of my career, I just felt welcome. I was treated really well here. It just felt right. I also met Holli here. It was a great situation for me, so it meant a lot to stay here."
That relationship goes both ways, which is why Martinez's election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame has resonated loudly for so many longtime fans in the Northwest.
"He earned the love and respect by the things he did off the field here in the community and in Puerto Rico," Ellis said. "He did everything with humility and hard work."
Now, Martinez is trying to absorb the magnitude of his greatest accomplishment as a ballplayer as he prepares for the July 21 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"It's incredible," he said. "The journey has been amazing. I never thought all this was going to happen to me. I tried not to let myself think about these things too much. It's an incredible journey and I feel pretty humbled and blessed at the same time."
Martinez has been to Cooperstown twice -- once as a player when the Mariners beat the Phillies, 4-3, in the Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field in 1994 and again as a spectator three years ago when Ken Griffey Jr. became the first full-time Mariner inductee.
Martinez was sitting in the hot sun watching Griffey's ceremony in 2016 when his former teammate mentioned that Martinez deserved to some day join him in the Hall.
"When Junior mentioned me in his speech, I felt so great," he said. "Obviously, Junior was one of best ever to play the game, a great teammate and friend. So it meant a lot. It felt great just to hear him say that. I think it helped a lot, too."
Public speaking isn't Martinez's strong suit, but he'll be on the stage in Cooperstown himself now in six months alongside fellow inductees Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines and representatives of the late Roy Halladay.
"I haven't thought about it," he said of his own acceptance speech. "I know there's a lot of people I have to thank. Obviously playing for so many years, there's a lot of people that played a big role. I haven't given it to much thought yet. But I have a few months to work on it."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.