ARLINGTON -- Chris Martin pitched an inning for the Rangers in Monday's exhibition game against the Reds, and his entry music was "Give Me Back My Hometown" by Eric Church.Manager Jeff Banister loved it."That tells you a lot about him and the pride he has for being here," Banister said.Martin
ARLINGTON -- Chris Martin pitched an inning for the Rangers in Monday's exhibition game against the Reds, and his entry music was "Give Me Back My Hometown" by Eric Church.
Manager Jeff Banister loved it.
"That tells you a lot about him and the pride he has for being here," Banister said.
Martin will be back at Globe Life Park and in his hometown for the Rangers' opener against the Astros on Thursday. He will make history with his first regular-season appearance.
Martin will be the first Major League player born in Arlington to play for the Rangers, and the first Arlington High School graduate, too. In a year where city pride has been on full display with the construction of the new ballpark, it will be a big moment for Martin and Arlington.
"There are going to be quite a few people here," Martin said. "This isn't my first time pitching here, but first time in a Rangers uniform, so family and friends are going to be really excited. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Former Rangers pitcher Todd Van Poppel played at Arlington Martin High, but he was born in Illinois. Outfielder Michael Choice was born in Fort Worth and played at Mansfield Timberview.
Martin is all Arlington.
"I have had a lot of friends and family text me and say, 'It's been a long time since we have been to the home opener, but we are going to be there this year.'" Martin said. "I was able to get my feet wet pitching here the other day, but Opening Day is going to be really amped up. I am excited about it."
Martin graduated from Arlington High in 2004. It has taken 14 years to make the 4 1/2-mile trip from Arlington High to Globe Life Park. The stops along the way included a junior college, an independent league, Yankee Stadium and two years with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan.
Martin also spent three years working at places like Lowe's, UPS and Texas Appliances. The joke in the Martin family is this: How does your injured shoulder get better? By moving refrigerators.
"A lot of speed bumps," Martin said. "It's a road, though, no matter how bumpy or rocky. A lot of people don't get this opportunity, so I'm just going to take it all in and enjoy it."
Martin was selected by the Tigers out of high school in the 18th round of the 2004 Draft, but he didn't sign. He went to McLennan College instead and was drafted by Rockies in the 21st round in '05. Again, he didn't sign. Martin went back for his sophomore year, blew out his right shoulder and was seemingly finished. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, and that was that.
Martin's jobs included hauling appliances and delivering packages. At one point in 2010, an old friend suggested they play catch. Martin did so, and his shoulder did not hurt. He found there was still some pop in his pitches. He tried out with the Grand Prairie AirHogs just down the freeway from Arlington and made the team.
Martin pitched in just 13 games for the AirHogs, but that was enough for the Red Sox to discover him and sign him. He pitched a few years with the organization, then got traded to the Rockies and made his Major League debut on April 26, 2014. The Yankees acquired Martin the following offseason. In 40 Major League games between the two teams, he has a 6.19 ERA.
Everything changed when Martin went to Japan. He had two outstanding years with the Fighters -- recording a 1.12 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP -- and was in high demand this offseason as a free agent.
"I think it's a combination of everything," Martin said. "Obviously, going to Japan was huge, but I have a little big league experience. I've pitched in Yankee Stadium, that's a pretty big atmosphere. I learned in Japan how to slow the game down, calm myself down when things aren't going your way. I think that's mentally going to help me."
Martin had a quiet spring for Texas. He had nine one-inning appearances and did not allow a run in eight of them. Martin struck out eight and walked none.
Martin was what the Rangers expected when they signed him to a two-year, $4 million contract on Dec. 15.
"Really quiet, but a quiet intensity," Banister said. "Very calm but intense. He has three quality pitches that can get big league hitters out. He just loves to get outs and finish innings. He doesn't seem fazed by anything."
That includes homecoming. Martin is ready to come home.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.