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Fans come first at Pedro's Feast With 45 dinner

Hall of Famer relishes chance to raise money for charity, interact with kids at annual event
MLB.com

BOSTON -- This was Pedro Martinez in his element. A night of charity and conversation, darting back and forth between loved ones and the people who he said made his time on the Red Sox such an exceptional experience -- the fans.

Kids decked in Red Sox jerseys lining up for autographs, chefs who surrounded the room with tables of exotic foods, reporters along the red carpet, old friends who came to offer support -- Martinez greeted them all with a pat on the shoulder or a grin at the second annual Feast With 45 on Friday night.

BOSTON -- This was Pedro Martinez in his element. A night of charity and conversation, darting back and forth between loved ones and the people who he said made his time on the Red Sox such an exceptional experience -- the fans.

Kids decked in Red Sox jerseys lining up for autographs, chefs who surrounded the room with tables of exotic foods, reporters along the red carpet, old friends who came to offer support -- Martinez greeted them all with a pat on the shoulder or a grin at the second annual Feast With 45 on Friday night.

That passion for interacting with Red Sox fans was what inspired Pedro's wife, Carolina, and chef Nick Calias to make Feast With 45 an annual event. It was the perfect chance to tap into Martinez's infectious enthusiasm.

"I never had the opportunity to watch a game from the stands, because I'm pretty sure that it would be impossible for me to watch a game from the stands," Martinez said. "But I do love mingling with the fans and the people. … So they came up with the idea that this was probably the closest thing to having dinner with the public."

But the evening was so much more than that. It was also a chance to raise money for the Pedro Martinez Foundation, which supports families in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.

The charity, which was founded in 2007, has funded more than 4,800 grants and scholarships to colleges and trade schools and provides services such as medical care, daycare, career training, parenting workshops and more to families at the Pedro Martinez Charity Community Center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

"I am a product of my opportunities, and I just want to hand that out to another person," Martinez told the Feast With 45 attendees. "Baseball gave it to me, and I want to give it to other people."

As he addressed the attendees, Martinez was effusive with his praise for the chefs, who brought a smorgasbord of samplings from Boston restaurants -- from octopus, to fish tacos, gnocchi, shrimp salad and beef bolognese.

Tweet from @PEDROCHARITY: The food is UNBELIEVABLY good at #FEASTWITH45 🙌 pic.twitter.com/QMP6pwY100

And to thank them for donating their time, Martinez offered another surprise the week before the event -- the chance to spend a few hours with him watching the Red Sox play at Fenway Park.

"For chefs that are always in kitchens and stuff and are busy working, why not have a day where you can actually appreciate the grass, appreciate Fenway the way it is?" Martinez said. "And not only that, getting inside the Green Monster, where there's so much history, and get to engrave your name in the Green Monster. I thought it was going to be something that caught their attention, and it did, in a huge way."

Watching Martinez interact with others, former Red Sox teammateTim Wakefield was struck by how sincere and passionate the Hall of Famer is about his foundation.

"Him being able to converse so effortlessly was because of education," Wakefield said. "And he wants to give back and wants to make sure that the kids in the Dominican are educated so they can fulfill their lifelong dreams."

That is Martinez's passion. He trains his focus on helping younger generations. He recently gave commencement speeches at several New England high schools, in which he emphasized optimism for the future.

"I want to serve as an example for them to have high hopes in whatever they do," Martinez said.

One of the kids Martinez served as an example for was Celtics center Al Horford, who first met Martinez when he was 10 years old.

"You get to meet one of your heroes," Horford said. "Growing up in Dominican, it was guys like him, Sammy Sosa, you know, just that group that we all looked up to. And Pedro was somebody that I really looked up to, and you always kept up with how many strikeouts he was getting and just everything. And now being here, supporting him, it's very special for me. I feel very honored."

And with the support of Boston friends and fans, Pedro and Carolina Martinez hope to continue creating opportunities.

"We just want the kids to fulfill their potential," Carolina Martinez told the attendees. "We just want to give them a chance."

Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.

Boston Red Sox