J.D. Martinez: 'I miss the smell of the ballpark'

Slugger dishes on adapting meticulous routine, missing the game, safety protocols

July 5th, 2020

BOSTON -- There may be no hitter in baseball who is more routine-oriented than .

The star slugger is obsessive about cage time, film study and talking shop with a crowd of teammates any time he can.

In other words, this upcoming 60-game season featuring over 100 pages of social-distancing and safety protocols is going to get Martinez out of his comfort zone a bit.

But the right-handed hitter, entering his third season with the Red Sox, vows he will make the necessary adjustments to thrive in a changing environment.

“[The routine is] definitely going to have to change,” Martinez said. “That’s kind of evident with everything that we all are seeing. But you have to kind of adapt to it and kind of find a way to make a new routine and make it work.”

One thing Martinez is going to make sure he gets in this three-week summer camp? At-bats. Tons of them. To do so, he realizes he will have to be innovative.

“It’s kind of like what I told [manager] Ron [Roenicke] right when I came in,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘Ron, I’m a guy that needs a lot of at-bats to get it going.’ That’s always been my M.O. ... I told him, ‘I need at-bats. Get me as many at-bats as you can.’ If I’ve got to track bullpens, put me in bullpens for that exact reason. ... We didn’t really get that many at-bats in Spring Training to really, really feel comfortable, so it’s going to be a grind.”

However, what Martinez loses in his routine he will gain in what should be exclusively ideal hitting conditions at ballparks for most of the shortened season.

“I’m definitely not mad about it, that’s for sure,” he said. “Those early months in Boston aren’t fun with that wind, that cold breeze, especially blowing in from right.”

Martinez spoke about a variety of other topics in a 16-minute Zoom session with reporters on Sunday. Here's a sampling:

On former teammate David Price not playing this season
“David Price, I respect his opinion,” Martinez said. “It’s a scary time right now, and I’m sure he’s doing what he thinks is best for his family. You’ve got to respect that. You wish him the best, honestly.”

Martinez doesn’t think Price’s decision not to play in 2020 will have a ripple effect.

“No, there’s other people that opted out, too,” Martinez said of Price, whose status as having "opted out" or "elected not to play" will be determined by MLB and the MLB Players Association. “[Ryan] Zimmerman, Mike Leake -- there’s certain other players that have [chosen not to play]. That’s their choice. They have to do what’s best for them."

Players who "opt out" are required to be considered “high risk" and will be paid and receive service time. Both will not apply to those who "elect not to play."

While Martinez realizes the risks all players are taking, he is embracing the chance to get to play this season.

“I think my love for the game is going to outweigh my fear of this whole thing once I get out there,” he said.

Reeling in a big fish
The layoff gave Martinez more time to engage in fishing, his favorite hobby. Last month, he was on the water with Red Sox alumnus Mike Napoli when he caught a bull shark.

“It was fun. He was strong, he kicked my butt,” Martinez said. “It was actually funny. We’re sitting there and we’re catching tunas, and then all of a sudden this bull shark comes out of nowhere and just slams one of our tuna and we’re hooked up on this big old bull shark and we’ve got to fight him. ... We let him go safe and sound, so there was nothing wrong with it.”

As much as Martinez loves to fish, he did miss baseball quite a bit.

“When I was around my friends they were like, ‘Do you miss it?’" Martinez recalled. "And I was like, ‘Honestly, I really do I miss the smell of the ballpark and walking in. I miss the energy of the stadium and the excitement of every game and the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen today. Today could be one of the most amazing days or it could be a really, really bad day when you come to the ballpark.'

“And I think that that excitement when you come is -- I think that makes it fun and that's what I love to do, is come to the ballpark and the challenge between the pitcher and the chess game you play against your competitor. So yeah, I really do miss it.”

On a universal DH
For the first time in history, both leagues will utilize the designated hitter on a full-time basis in 2020. Count Martinez among those who would like to see MLB go with the switch permanently.

“You’re kind of asking a biased person here,” Martinez said. “I’m all for it. I’m a DH. I think you could speak to a lot of pitchers who are for it, too. A lot of pitchers like it and a lot of pitchers in the AL like it because they feel the pitchers in the NL have an advantage. It’s one less hitter they have to face and one less elite hitter they have to face, really, because of it.

“So I like it to even the playing field across the board. I understand the history of it and stuff like that, so I see the other side of it, too, but I’m in favor of it. I think it keeps everybody safe. It keeps our pitchers safe, it keeps the game fun, it’s more offense, which is what fans like to see. And I think you don’t have the whole, ‘Oh he had 2.00 ERA in the NL so the AL that’s really going to be a 3.00.’ Now it makes it easy and makes it even across the board for everybody.”

Safety first
Martinez and other Red Sox veterans expressed how vital it is for every player on the team and their families to stay as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve already had a meeting about it, and a lot of the veteran guys have spoken up about it and just addressing everything from who you’re hanging out with off the field,” Martinez said. “If you’re hanging out with your family, your entourage -- where are your friends, where are your family going when we’re at the ballpark? All that stuff, everyone has to be accountable from all aspects of it because it’s a scary time we’re all living in. But I’m confident everybody got the message.”