CLEVELAND -- Victor Martinez recorded his 2,000th Major League hit in the same ballpark where he recorded his first. The reaction from his former home fans at Progressive Field following his second-inning single in Friday's 11-2 Tigers loss against the Indians reminded him what it was like back then."It was
CLEVELAND -- Victor Martinez recorded his 2,000th Major League hit in the same ballpark where he recorded his first. The reaction from his former home fans at Progressive Field following his second-inning single in Friday's 11-2 Tigers loss against the Indians reminded him what it was like back then.
"It was a great moment," Martinez said. "I will always remember this moment until I die. It was pretty special the way the fans reacted."
Martinez hit a line drive to left with two outs in the inning off Carlos Carrasco, then hugged first-base coach Omar Vizquel upon reaching the bag. The Cleveland crowd acknowledged the feat with a long standing ovation, leading Martinez to tip his cap.
Players and coaches in both dugouts also stood in applause.
"We all love Victor and what he did for this organization and the quality hitter he is and the type of hitter he is," Indians bench coach and acting manager Brad Mills said. "We were talking in the dugout, 'That's a lot of hits.' And I know there's some guys with 3,000, there's some guys, couple guys with 4,000 or whatever. Man, that's a lot of hits. It couldn't happen to a better guy and that's something."
The 38-year-old DH is the ninth active player with 2,000 hits, joining Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre, Jose Pujols, Carlos Beltran, Jose Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Matthew Holliday and Jose Reyes. Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Markakis should join them this season.
Martinez's feat comes 15 years after the former Indians catcher had his first hit on the same field. A September callup in 2002, he hit a bloop single into short left field off the late Blue Jays starter Justin Miller on Sept. 10 that year.
"A lot of things went through my mind," Martinez said. "Going back to 2002 when I got my first hit here, I got a bloop single over the shortstop, and this one's pretty similar.
"I thank God for everything, just getting me to this spot. At the same time, the fans here, it was pretty special. It was really special for me. I never thought they were going to stand up and clap, but this was the organization that gave me a chance to be a professional baseball player, gave me a chance to become a Major Leaguer."
The Indians signed Martinez as a teenager in 1996. He was 20 when he debuted in the Class A NY-Penn League, but he rose quickly from there, earning his September callup after a standout season at Double-A Akron.
Martinez stuck with the team for good as a midseason callup in 2003, then became the mainstay behind the plate for the Indians through their rise to a division title in '07, until he was traded to Boston in '09. He signed with the Tigers as a free agent following the '10 season, but has been treated more like an old friend than a division rival by Cleveland fans.
"I never wanted to leave this place. Unfortunately, that's the business," Martinez said. "I got traded and it was hard. It was hard for me to leave this place, and I hope they know that. Even my mom says we're always going to have Cleveland in our heart."
Martinez brought his family on the trip to allow them to take part. His 12-year-old son, Victor Jose, was around the clubhouse before and after the game. Martinez has 492 of his 2,000 hits in Cleveland, where he's a .298 career hitter. He has 465 career hits at Comerica Park.
For Martinez, the last hits have been some of the toughest. He was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat last month.
"It's been a roller coaster this year," Martinez said. "It's been tough. But like I learned a long time ago, nobody said it was going to be easy. That's why I try to be pretty optimistic and try to win games. When you see things when you're home, at the end, man, it's just a baseball game.
"You give everything you have. A lot of people like it, a lot of people don't like it, but it is what it is. I give everything I had, and I can go home sitting on my couch and I'm going to be pretty happy, because I always give everything I have in this game."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.