CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The 45-year-old legend took the mound with No. 45 on the back of a flannel Red Sox jersey for a one-night engagement that thrilled everyone in attendance on Thursday at St. Peter's Field.Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez suited up again and couldn't contain his smile or his
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The 45-year-old legend took the mound with No. 45 on the back of a flannel Red Sox jersey for a one-night engagement that thrilled everyone in attendance on Thursday at St. Peter's Field.
Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez suited up again and couldn't contain his smile or his laughter as he pitched two shutout innings in the Old Time Baseball Game, which included a plethora of talented local college players.
Fans got closer to Martinez than they ever could during his playing days, as many were sitting on beach blankets in foul territory.
"It felt a lot better than I thought, and I'm extremely happy I did it. I certainly think I exceeded the expectations I had of myself because I got two innings in," Martinez said. "It was supposed to be one. A lot more command than I thought."
Hundreds of spectators added to a unique atmosphere at a field that was five miles from Martinez's former home office of Fenway Park.
Lou Merloni, a former teammate of Martinez's from 1998-2003, played third base in the top of the first.
"It was old school," said Merloni. "It's always fun playing behind him. I don't care how old he is, or how long it's been since he pitched. Seeing him on the mound, he was just laughing, having fun, which was great to see with Pedro."
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner joked that he was scouting Martinez as a potential September call-up.
The Old Time Baseball Game, which was started in 1994 by Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley, supports a different charitable cause each year. The proceeds from Thursday's game went to John Martin, a popular NESN camera man who was diagnosed with ALS last year, and the ALS Therapy Development Institute of Cambridge.
"Pedro, as everybody knows, has not only a big arm but a big heart," said Werner. "This is a great evening, and I'm honored to be here and represent the Red Sox. It's a great evening. We see the lousy hand that John got dealt. This is a way of saying to John, 'we love you.'"
Martin served as a manager of the game, and Martinez went to his house and drove him to the park.
"This is a disease that's starting to show up more and more every year and I wonder, when are we finally going to get an answer for that disease? Guys like John don't deserve this disease," Martinez said. "And it lifted me up to see him, to be honest. As soon as I got out of the car, through the window, I saw that bright smile."
Once the game got going, Martinez settled into a familiar rhythm of retiring batters. He got a flyout to left, a flyout to right and a strikeout looking in the first.
"That was a dead fish," Martinez said of the fastball that generated the strikeout. "One of them we normally give when we know a guy is geared up for a fastball."
In the second, Martinez allowed a bloop single but quickly regrouped, getting a fielder's choice and a double-play grounder.
"Everything comes back," said Martinez. "Once you get to the mound, everything comes back. I don't know if you saw me holding the runner and varying the looks and all that. You just react to the emotion you have and that's what I did pretty much. I was having fun. I know this is a great cause and having the opportunity to be here and be healthy, I felt a lot better than I thought."
It was the first time Martinez has pitched in a game as a Hall of Famer. The last time Martinez could remember pitching was in a game involving retired players at some point in 2014.
"After that, it was just BP to my kids and stuff like that, simulated situations with my kids, nothing else," Martinez said. "I haven't been on the mound, I don't think, since then."
But the surroundings looked as familiar as ever to the pitcher who used to electrify Fenway like Chris Sale is doing this summer.
"I'm actually a little bit shocked because I've never seen something like it," Martinez said of Sale. "I know that you guys said you saw it in me, but I never saw what I was doing, really. I never stopped to look at what was going on. Now that I'm seeing Chris Sale, I can now understand why the Boston fans got so excited every time I went out."
With 241 strikeouts in his first 24 starts, Sale has a legitimate chance to break Martinez's single-season strikeout record for the Red Sox of 313 in 1999.
"It will feel great," Martinez said. "I was always a guy that was searching for greatness for the biggest and toughest challenges. If anyone is going to do it, it's Chris Sale. Chris Sale is suited to do anything against anybody in any era."
But Thursday was a sweet reminder of the era when Martinez took the mound every fifth day.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.