WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez never envisioned himself as a coach. After a 16-year playing career, he thought perhaps he might be good at it, but it was too much travel. Plus, he had four children at home.It was not until Martinez received a phone call from Joe Maddon
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez never envisioned himself as a coach. After a 16-year playing career, he thought perhaps he might be good at it, but it was too much travel. Plus, he had four children at home.
It was not until Martinez received a phone call from Joe Maddon in 2006 -- inviting him to be a guest instructor at Spring Training with the Rays -- that Martinez initially considered going down the coaching path. He had met Maddon during an instructional league in 1983 when Martinez was a player in the Cubs organization. Maddon, an opposing Minor League manager at the time, walked over to Martinez and complimented him.
• Winter Meetings interview with Dave Martinez
"'I really like the way you play the game,'" Martinez recalled Maddon saying then. "I didn't know Joe from Adam. I just looked at him like, 'Oh, thanks.'"
"[Martinez] has been on a lot of winning teams," Maddon said. "Just look at him as a player. That's what drew me to him in the beginning with the Rays. I'd never been with him as a teammate but I'd watched him play. He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player, he's bilingual -- all that matters. And he's not afraid to have tough conversations."
After two years as a Spring Training instructor, Martinez became Maddon's bench coach in 2008 with Tampa Bay. The Rays won the American League pennant that season and Martinez was hooked.
"Since then," he said, "I really had the burning sensation of being considered as a manager one day."
After a decade as a bench coach under Maddon and years of interviewing for his own managerial job, Martinez's day finally arrived when the Nationals named him the eighth manager in team history this offseason. Since then, Martinez has been busy helping with the hiring process of his new coaching staff, contacting and meeting with as many Nationals players as possible and preparing himself to take over a team with World Series aspirations this coming spring. Martinez will meet the media next week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., not far from his current hometown in Tampa, in his first news conference since he was introduced by the Nationals in November.
Even if Martinez never considered managing while he was playing, it became apparent early on that he was suited for it.
Several people have given Martinez credit as the connection in the clubhouse between management and the players -- someone who is willing to have the "tough conversations." He is bilingual and speaks fluent Spanish, which attracted the Nats because more than a few of their top prospects are from Latin American countries.
"He was a guy who handles players well," Nationals general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said. "He has handled star players as he has handled the 25th man on the roster, so he does a lot of things that really appeal to us."
The Nationals have a veteran clubhouse that Martinez will have to win over, and they believe he is the guy to do it. After a 16-year playing career and a decade of learning under one of MLB's most respected managers in two analytically inclined organizations, the Nats believe Martinez can be the perfect blend of old school and new school.
"The one thing I can tell you is that I have a lot of high energy, positive energy," Martinez said at his introductory news conference. "I'm not a guy that's going to sit in the manager's office. I'm very hands on. I love talking to players, I love conversations with players. It's my strong suit."
Martinez's managerial style will almost certainly mimic Maddon's in some ways, but he will also mold it into his own. Martinez is the coach who wanted music played in the clubhouse 20 minutes after a loss, wanting his team to turn the page and forget about it. Expect "Sunday Fundays," where the report time for players is later and the team shares a family breakfast.
Whether this will all translate into on-field success remains to be seen. The Nationals hired Martinez to get them over the hump; they dismissed their previous manager after back-to-back division titles and a loss in the National League Division Series in '17. Martinez's objective is to win the World Series in Washington.
There may have been a time when Martinez could not see himself in this spot, as the manager of the Nationals. Then there were so many years in which he envisioned himself as a big league skipper, before getting passed over for managerial opening after managerial opening. Now, he's finally getting his chance.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.