COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Edgar Martinez, who used to weigh his bats to make sure of their precision, carefully weighed his words Sunday as he accepted his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He also gave a quick estimate on his newest prize possession, his Hall of Fame plaque that will now hang with the rest of baseball’s greats for perpetuity.
“The first thing I noticed, that thing has to be 40 pounds,” Martinez said with a laugh after Sunday’s induction ceremony. “That thing is heavy. I was getting cramps in my biceps. But it’s a great feeling, it really is. It’s amazing.”
Martinez carried more than just his new bronze plaque as he stood on stage in front of a huge throng filling the open field outside the Clark Sports Center and delivered a perfect 12-minute speech. He carried also the pride of Mariners fans who flocked across the country to celebrate with him as the 56-year-old finally ended his long journey to the Hall in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
While the crowd understandably had a large Yankee contingent rooting for unanimous first-year inductee Mariano Rivera, Mariners fans were just as vocal and made their presence known with the familiar “Eddd-gar, Eddd-gar” chant rolling across the field both before and after he spoke.
MLB Network studio host Brian Kenny, who emceed the event, noted that Mariners fans “traveled very well" and did themselves proud. And they made Martinez proud as well.
“I appreciate it,” said the man who stayed in Seattle for his entire career and continues to make it home. “It felt pretty awesome to see the fans and hear the chant again.
"When I was playing, you have to be so focused on going to hit in a situation, you hear it a little bit and then it’s gone, even if the chant is still going. Here I heard the chant and felt a little emotional. And then I said, ‘OK, you have to go to the task. You have to read [your speech].' But it was pretty awesome.”
During his career, Martinez worried more about ripping doubles than writing headlines, focused more on production than publicity. Maybe that’s why it took him 10 years before being voted into the Hall.
But Martinez belonged on the big stage, in part because he was such a humble star, and he delivered just the kind of induction speech one would expect as he thanked family, friends, teammates and everyone involved with his lengthy journey.
His presentation was flawless, for good reason. Martinez said he practiced the speech 12 times just on Sunday morning and probably 70 or more times since he began working on it several months ago.
It’s that same preparation that helped him put together his Hall of Fame career and he said the work helped ease his nerves as he faced the huge crowd and delivered his message, which included about a minute in Spanish directed to his Puerto Rican fans.
“Now I can breathe 100 percent,” he said. “For the last three days, it’s like you’re holding some of your air. So yeah, it’s a relief.”
While it took the full 10 years for Martinez to reach Cooperstown, there’s no question he belonged on the big stage alongside Rivera, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines and Brandy Halladay, the wife of the late Roy Halladay.
Consider his career performance against the four pitchers who were inducted alongside him Sunday. The 18-year veteran posted a combined line of .374/.424/.730 with 10 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 12 walks and 18 strikeouts in 128 plate appearances against that elite quartet.
His dominance against Rivera is well-documented as he went 11-for-19 with three doubles and two homers against the Yankees standout. But he also hit .444 (8-for-18) against Halladay with two doubles and a homer. He batted .307 with five doubles, two triples and five homers in 75 at-bats against Mussina. He was 1-for-3 with a double against Smith.
It all adds up to why Martinez is regarded as one of the premier right-handed hitters of his generation. And now he has his place – and face – permanently enshrined on that heavy bronze piece that will hang in the Plaque Gallery at the Hall of Fame.
What’s left for Martinez? Just time to ponder his journey and enjoy.
“Now I can reflect back on how I got here,” he said. “Which is something that can be very rewarding because it wasn’t easy. Coming out of Puerto Rico where I grew up, no English, by myself basically as a young kid, going through the Minor Leagues and fighting through the up and downs.
“Finally in the big leagues, having success, but it wasn’t easy either. And finally after 10 years being here? It’s been incredible. It’s hard to believe, but it’s fun to think, go back, and rewind and see how I got here.”