Lewis-Martin friendship already goes way back

March 31st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park’s Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

looked to his right as he spoke to the media for the first time as a big leaguer. There, next to his locker with the No. 82 nameplate, was the locker with the No. 23 nameplate belonging to , whose injury had cleared the path for Martin's own arrival to Kauffman Stadium.

Their friendship goes back a decade at this point, spanning to when they were 14-year-old roommates for the 2014 Team USA 15-U squad, which played in Mazatlán, Mexico. That connection made the day all the more meaningful for both, even considering the somber circumstances of Lewis’ severe quad strain.

“I'm so excited,” Lewis said. “I don't think he's taking my spot; he's well-deserved up here. I'm very glad he got an opportunity. If it had to be me going down for him, then I think it's worth it, absolutely.”

Martin added: “We roomed together whenever we played for USA, so it's cool to be in a big league clubhouse with him being my cubby-mate.”

When each old roomie is asked about what the other was like at 14 years old, the consensus is that neither has changed much since then. Martin says that this version of the “super energetic, super positive, always joking” Lewis is exactly the same as back then -- and Lewis emphasizes that this “chill, laid-back, ready to just go ball out for you” version of Martin is identical, too.

Perhaps their baseball skill sets have changed a tad bit more than their personalities since then. That’s the best explanation for why they're here, since the pair of future big leaguers weren’t even supposed to see playing time for that 15-U team in 2014.

“For some reason, the coach didn't believe in us or something, because he put us on the bench, and he told us straight-up, ‘Yeah, you guys aren't going to be playing unless something happens,’” Lewis said. “Some guys struggled out of the gate, we were given a cool opportunity, and he didn't take us out of the lineup after we got that opportunity.”

But if Lewis’ characterization of Martin holds true, it doesn’t seem like that would have fazed Martin much, anyway. That adaptability and take-it-as-it-goes attitude was already on full display in Martin’s big league debut.

Martin made it into the game as a pinch-runner for Matt Wallner in the top of the seventh inning on Saturday, and after he manned left field on defense for a half-inning, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in a big spot in the top of the eighth.

So, he didn’t get to hit in his big league debut. Afterwards, he was characteristically unbothered.

“I mean, I wasn't really thinking too much,” Martin said. “[Manager Rocco Baldelli] said to come back and he wanted [Manuel] Margot to hit. If Rocco feels that's the best move and it would put the team in a good position to win, then I support it. … At the end of the day, I'm here to win.”

It’s the perfect attitude for the role Martin is expected to have, which could involve a lot of running and defense when the Twins aren’t facing lefties. It should serve him (and the Twins) well.