Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Sat Next To Pedro In Stockton

This has been an interesting Hall of Fame class this year. This group of guys are making me feel old. I can remember when Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez were coming up when I was in high school. Allow me to explain......
I collected baseball cards (since I wasn't collecting girls phone numbers) well into when I was in high school. (Probably couldn't get phone numbers since I was a baseball dweeb)
But I can vividly remember coming across baseball cards of Randy Johnson as an Indianapolis Indian when he was a farm hand of the Montreal Expos. I remember thinking how old he looked and as well as how odd he looked. He was very tall and lanky when he was younger. This was probably 1988. I filed the card away. He would eventually go on to bigger and better things as a Seattle Mariner.
I remember getting John Smoltz's rookie card, but since I wasn't a fan of the Tigers, I didn't care. He would eventually get traded to the Atlanta Braves and become part of a historic pitching rotation.
I saw Craig Biggio's Major League debut....on television. It was sometime in late June of 1988. The Giants were playing the Astros in Houston. I can remember Hank Greenwald talking about this young catcher who was playing his first game in the bigs. I think he had a great day. Who would have known almost twenty years later he would be collecting his 3,000th and be on his way to Cooperstown.
Which leads me to the final inductee. I remember the fuss about Ramon Martinez's kid brother Pedro who was supposed to be a great pitcher. (I remember Ramon's big league debut)
Didn't know much more about Pedro because he was a minor leaguer.
Well one night in 1991I'm at a Stockton Ports game watching the Ports play the Bakersfield Dodgers. I'm sitting a couple of rows behind homeplate. To the right side of me at the end of the row is Pedro Martinez and a trainer for Bakersfield. They were talking in Spanish, laughing and enjoying the evening. Pedro signed autographs as he was watching the game. Again, I had no idea this guy was gonna be a big leaguer. He was just Ramon's brother. There was a third Martinez brother who was supposed to be better than Ramon and Pedro. Jesus Martinez never made it to the big leagues.
In 1991 I had a car that allowed me to explore. So I took a roadtrip to Bakersfield and Las Vegas to see some future LA Dodgers. I saw Mike Piazza in Bakersfield.
So I eventually get to Las Vegas to see the then Las Vegas Stars play the Albuquerque Dukes. This was AAA ball at Cashman Field. So I'm by the dugouts just watching batting practice. Someone familiar is standing in front of me in a Dukes uniform. It was Pedro Martinez. He was kind of standoff-ish to everyone trying to get his attention. Since I was the closest, he signed my program. I still have it somewhere in a box.
Once again, who knew that one day he would make a few starts for the Dodgers, get traded to Montreal, and set upon the road to the Hall of Fame?
The baseball cards of Smoltz and Johnson are long gone. All I have are the memories of watching TV, opening a pack of cards and making a roadtrip to come across these newly enshrined Hall of Famers.
I don't think I'll have this kind of connection with another Hall of Fame class. I eventually stopped collecting baseball cards, I watch so many games on TV, it's hard to keep up with who's who. Kids are getting called up quite frequently this year. My big roadtrip is to Arizona in March, and there are so many players coming in and out of games, it's hard to spot that one special player.
But for a brief moment in time, I saw four very special careers take off.

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