At the seventh annual Pedro Martinez Foundation Gala in Boston recently, the man of the hour took the microphone after a video was finished showing shacks from his homeland in the Dominican Republic similar to the one he lived in as a kid. There were also images of the malnourished families who inhabited those shacks.
“That is the real, legit life of an everyday Pedro Martinez as a kid,” said Martinez to the audience that had come out to support his cause. “That was what I lived, what I had to face every single day, to make it to where I made it. And what better way to show [people] what to do for others than what we're doing here.”
For Martinez and his wife, Carolina Cruz de Martinez, the latter of whom dove head-first into helping to run her husband’s foundation from nearly the minute they started dating, what they’re doing is changing lives.
The next living, breathing example of that is a charter school fully funded by the Pedro Martinez Foundation that is expected to open, in Carolina’s estimation, "hopefully in 2024 at some point," in the Dominican Republic.
The state-of-the-art facility will be incomparable to any school Pedro Martinez’s country has ever seen.
“This is going to be a highlight for the educational system in the Dominican Republic, because we don't have facilities in the Dominican for kids that attend public schools that have sports, basketball, volleyball, or any of that,” Carolina said. “So this is going to be the first one in Latin America. And this is going to be the first one in the Dominican Republic. And we would love to have a lot of you come and experience what we experienced over there.”
One of the best pitchers in baseball history, Martinez uttered this famous quote following Game 2 of the 2004 American League Championship Series in reference to Yankees fans taunting him 55,000 strong with chants of “Who’s your daddy?”:
“Fifteen years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree, without fifty cents to pay for a bus,” Martinez said that night. “And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York.”
Martinez realizes that without his extreme gift for throwing a baseball, he still might be under that mango tree scraping together bus fare.
Thanks to what his foundation is doing, other kids in the D.R. will be more fortunate, whether they are ballplayers or not.
“I'm extremely grateful because I'm going to bring others opportunities that I never had. And that says a lot for a guy that didn't have much but baseball to strive for,” Martinez said. “Imagine if I didn’t make it in baseball. Where would I be? I asked myself the same question. 'Where would I be without baseball?'
“And that's what I want to bring: another opportunity. Our foundation has 60 programs that we can actually mention for people to pick and choose what you want to do. And that's in a community that you usually don't get more than one opportunity. And that's what we want to do ... and for us to almost realize that dream of bringing opportunities to others is the most important thing and something to be really grateful for.”
The Pedro Martinez Foundation touts the following: “With a holistic approach to education, our children began developing a sense of identity and empowerment while receiving education and life skills through our over 60 programs at the foundation.”
The Pedro Martinez Foundation gala has become a staple on the Boston philanthropic calendar, taking place every year in November. And without the money raised by the many benefactors who attend, the success of the foundation wouldn’t be possible.
“It means a lot,” Carolina said of the gala. “It means celebration. It means gratefulness. It means that we have people behind us who believe in what we would do. Every single cent we raise, every single event we do, they see it at this event.”
This year’s gathering included many familiar baseball names, from Jason Varitek to Jim Rice to Justin Turner to Corey Kluber to Jeremy Peña to Willy Adames and many others.
“Pedro is a legend in the game, but he’s an even better human being,” Peña said. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling to see the building of a charter school.
"It gives the youth options. It gives them tools, gives them resources. It’s special."