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V-Mart improved on, off field because of fans

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The tears were flowing out of Victor Martinez's eyes as his teammates encouraged him to say a few words during Saturday's pregame ceremony noting his final Major League game. As he took the microphone and gathered himself, he saved his few words for the fans that were on their feet to honor his career.

"From the bottom of my heart, I can only say thank you for being behind us all these years, supporting my teammates, supporting myself," Martinez said. "Thank you very much."

DETROIT -- The tears were flowing out of Victor Martinez's eyes as his teammates encouraged him to say a few words during Saturday's pregame ceremony noting his final Major League game. As he took the microphone and gathered himself, he saved his few words for the fans that were on their feet to honor his career.

"From the bottom of my heart, I can only say thank you for being behind us all these years, supporting my teammates, supporting myself," Martinez said. "Thank you very much."

After the game, Martinez thanked fans again.

"I don't have enough words to thank everybody in Detroit -- and yes, remember the fans," Martinez said. "They made me not only a better player, but they made me a better person. I thank them for that."

It's a relationship that, as Martinez acknowledged in those latter comments, evolved over the years. Martinez, effusive in his gratitude for fans' support, was also pleading for more support a few years ago during the Tigers' run of division titles as they found themselves in a battle with the Royals in 2014.

"They have all the rights to be mad," Martinez said in August of that season, "but I just want it be known that it's not that easy. I wish I could have five, six RBIs every night. That would be perfect for me and the rest of my teammates. But you know what, the other side, they have families, too. They're in the big leagues for a reason. …

"Again, they have all the rights to be mad, because they're paying to come here and see a good show. But I want them to understand on the other hand that we're really trying. We don't want to lose. It's just the way it is. We're in a really tough stretch, and this is when we need the fans the most. We want the fans to keep backing us up."

Video: KC@DET: V-Mart honored pregame at Comerica Park

At that point, both players and fans alike were feeling the pressure of the Tigers' window beginning to close for that group to push for a World Series title. Martinez was one of the key cogs in 2014, finishing second in American League MVP Award voting after Detroit won its fourth straight division title. The Tigers were swept out of the AL Division Series that October, their last postseason berth. Those also ended up being the final postseason games of his career.

Martinez never played in a World Series game in his 16-year career, a regret he'll handle. He did not want to retire with the regret of not clearing the air about his appreciation for fans in Detroit, which is why he brought up the topic himself when talking with reporters Saturday.

"If I have to say sorry to the fans of Detroit for whatever has happened, I'm saying it right now: I'm sorry," Martinez said. "Because for me, as a baseball player, there was nothing better than going outside and seeing a full house, because that makes me better."

When Martinez was asked what he was apologizing for, he referred back to past years.

"Things happen. I fight with my brother a lot, my own blood," Martinez said. "Here, we spend most of the year seeing each other, so you expect we might have some differences. That doesn't mean we don't like each other. I love my brother to death. But it is what is. And you know what, I understand.

"Now, I understand a little more, because I'm a really big soccer fan, and now when I see my team doesn't do good, I get on them. But believe it or not, [the fans] made me not only a better player, because I knew I have to be better the next year. But they made me a better person."

That relationship, ultimately, helped lead to Martinez deciding on this past weekend for his final games, rather than playing on the road this coming week.

"That's just me thanking the Detroit Tigers fans, thanking everybody here, for me to play the last game of my career here," Martinez said.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez