SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez doesn't know exactly what it'll feel like the in coming days when he reports to work at Safeco Field and sees his No. 11 permanently retired on the outfield facade, but he has a pretty good idea.For the past dozen years, every time he's arrived at
SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez doesn't know exactly what it'll feel like the in coming days when he reports to work at Safeco Field and sees his No. 11 permanently retired on the outfield facade, but he has a pretty good idea.
For the past dozen years, every time he's arrived at the ballpark from his home across Lake Washington in Bellevue, Wash., he's driven down Edgar Martinez Drive and turned into the parking garage across the street from the stadium. To see his name emblazoned on street signs and freeway exits in Seattle is not something the humble Puerto Rican ever expected.
"At the beginning, it felt really strange," Martinez said with a smile. "Now I look just to see if it's still there."
• No. 11 flying atop Seattle's Space Needle
Martinez figures it'll be somewhat similar peering up to see his No. 11 hanging with Ken Griffey Jr.'s 24 as the only numbers ever retired by the Mariners, adjacent to Jackie Robinson's 42 that has been retired by all Major League teams.
Before Saturday's game against the Angels, Martinez was honored in a 45-minute ceremony that was attended by former teammates Griffey, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer and Alvin Davis, as well as former coaches Lee Elia and Sam Perlozzo and his cousin, Carmelo Martinez, who was the one who convinced him to give pro baseball a try in the first place.
Martinez thanked the people who helped him throughout a storied career that included seven All-Star appearances, five American League Silver Slugger Awards, two AL batting titles, the Roberto Clemente Award in 2004 and five Designated Hitter of the Year honors, an award since renamed the Edgar Martinez Award by former Commissioner Bud Selig.
"Baseball, what a wonderful game," Martinez told the Safeco crowd after his number was unveiled. "Because of baseball, I met my wife, I have a wonderful family, I have all these awards, the street, the number retired, I live in an area that is beautiful -- beautiful lake, mountains and beautiful people. When I think that baseball had given me everything it had, it gives me more."
It's been an incredible journey for a 54-year-old who arrived in Seattle in 1983 after being signed as a 19-year-old while playing semi-pro ball in Puerto Rico. And yes, Martinez remembers those humble beginnings, when he landed at Sea-Tac Airport and began an unknown future.
"The manager was waiting for us, and there were, like, six or seven of us in one bus driving up to Bellingham, [where I played my first Minor League season]," Martinez said. "That was a very strange experience coming from Puerto Rico, a kid who doesn't know much English, and then on the bus with strangers. But at the same time, I was excited to be playing baseball as a profession, when I thought all the time it was just a game."
It turned out to be a game that changed his life dramatically and began a career that now will be memorialized forever on the outfield wall at the ballpark on Edgar Martinez Way.
He closed out Saturday's ceremony with a hat tip to the Mariners fans who supported him throughout that career and had the chance once again to chant "Ed-gar, Ed-gar" at one of the most popular figures in franchise history.
"I was so fortunate to play in front of you for 18 years," Martinez said. "Thank you for taking me in as one of your own and welcoming me in your homes. You were the force that kept me going, and I am so grateful. Thank you, Seattle."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.