Martinez steered to mound by father
Move to pitching came with dad's encouragement, coaching from former Rangers lefty Alvarez
SEATTLE -- Nick Martinez has proven to be a huge asset to the Rangers' pitching staff. Not the pitcher, the father.
If Nick Martinez, a general contractor in South Florida, had not badgered his son Nicholas into taking pitching lessons from former Rangers pitcher Juan Alvarez in high school, well ...
"I don't know where I would be," said the son, Texas pitcher Nick Martinez. "I would probably be working on Wall Street with the rest of my Fordham teammates."
The financial world's loss is the Rangers' gain as Martinez takes the mound on Tuesday night against the D-backs with a 2-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. That's not bad for a guy who wanted to make the Major Leagues as an infielder and had absolutely no interest in pitching.
Martinez's father was the one who insisted that his son at least take a few pitching lessons when he was a senior at Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami.
"He harped on it a lot," Martinez said. "If it didn't hurt, why not try it? Just in case I did go on the mound, I wouldn't get hurt with bad mechanics. I really didn't want to do it because I liked playing every day."
Martinez's father was an athlete. At 5-foot-9, he could still dunk a basketball. People who saw him play said he was the most athletic guy they ever saw, but a heart murmur kept him from playing competitively. Still, baseball was the passion in the Martinez family in South Florida, especially for Nick the father and Nicholas the son.
"I had a lot of cousins, every party we went to, instead of playing basketball or football, we set up a diamond and play," Martinez said, "I started with my uncle and my dad, a lot of boys in the family on both sides, so we always had enough for a team."
Martinez was an infielder all through his childhood, but his dad saw the arm potential, even if the son was resistant.
"I think he always knew I was going to be a pitcher," Martinez said. "I always fought him for it, because I wanted to play every day. I really didn't like pitching. My senior year in high school, I just brushed it off, didn't want to do it. He continued to ask me to do it. Just to make him happy, I did it."
So Martinez started working with Alvarez, a former Major League pitcher who lived in the same neighborhood.
"It wasn't that bad, so I kept doing it," Martinez said.
There was also the idea that if Martinez could pitch and play a position, it might mean more scholarship money for college. Fordham did recruit him, but he didn't get any extra money. Martinez only threw three mop-up innings in high school, but the lessons with Alvarez continued during college breaks. He did get to pitch at Fordham, although only six innings as a freshman and another 20 as a junior.
Rangers scout Jay Heafner still saw the potential and told Martinez they were going to draft him as a pitcher. Even then, Martinez was reluctant.
"At first, I asked him if they could draft me as a position player," Martinez said. "If it didn't work out, just switch me over. He said flat out. 'No, that's not what they want you for.' I didn't feel I had a lot of negotiating power."
Martinez, drafted in the 18th round in 2011, left college with only a fastball and a nominal slider. But the foresight of the father and the scout proved to be brilliant. Once Martinez developed his secondary pitches -- including a changeup that went from nonexistent to above average -- he soared through Texas' farm system and ended up in the Opening Day rotation in 2014.
It was something Martinez never expected growing up. Only Martinez the elder had an idea.
"He just had inkling what I should do, and it was a good inkling," Martinez said. "I didn't think that far ahead. I just thought it was a dead end when I first started doing it. I was doing it just to do it. Now I love pitching.
"I don't think I've ever told him straight up, thank you. I'm very thankful I took those lessons."