* Rusell Martin (Montreal, Que.) became the Blue Jays catcher for the next five years, signing a four-year $82 million US deal. A look back at Martin’s first game on a grand stage _ the 2005 Futures Game at Comerica Park as a Los Angeles Dodgers farm hand.
FUTURE ON DISPLAY
THREE OF CANADA’S TOP PROSPECTS DO US PROUD IN THE FUTURES GAME
By Bob Elliott
DETROIT –– Russell Martinknows all about adapting.
Born at East York Hospital, he lived in Scarborough until he was two years old, when his family moved to Montreal. When he was in Grades 3 and 4 he attended school in Paris, France.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round in 2002 as a third baseman, he was converted into a catcher after his initial season in the minors.
So, with one out and the bases loaded, Martin knew what to do as the middle man on the game-ending double play as the World beat Team USA 4-0 yesterday afternoon in the annual Futures Game at Commerica Park in front of 39,646 fans.
San Francisco Giants prospect Kevin Frandsen hit an 0-1 pitch back to Adam Loewen, of Surrey, B.C., who threw to Martin, and he fired to first baseman Aaron Huber, of Australia, for the game-ending double play.
A Canadian throwing to a Canadian, who kept the ball in the Commonwealth to end the game.
Once they were finished singing We Are the World, an appropriate song for the bus trip to the hotel could have been O Canada. Righty Scott Mathieson, of Aldergrove, B.C., needed only six pitches to work a scoreless 2/3 of an inning.
We’ve heard managers call players a son of a buck or a son of a gun, but never have we heard anyone call a player the son of a saxophonist. Martin’s father, also named Russell, is rehabbing from an finger injury before he resumes his music career.
“My father plays jazz,” Martin said. “He did teach me to play Mary Had a Little Lamb … and I put some funk into it, but I never was much interested in music much.”
Martin was into most everything else though.
“He was skating backwards when he was two years old wearing pads on his knees and elbows,” said his mother Susanne Jeanson, from Chelsea, Que., near Ottawa.
“He was cycling at 2 1/2 years old without training wheels … mind you he was covered in bruises from all the falls.”
Through the magic of the Internet, Susanne was listening to the pre-game show yesterday and heard Russell interviewed.
“I high-fived my husband when they introduced him,” Susanne said. “We are very proud of him, he was so modest being interviewed. I didn’t cry, I laughed out of joy.”
Mom didn’t make the trip to Detroit for the all-star game festivities, deciding to make an extended trip to Jacksonville later this month, where her son is hitting .320 with five homers and 43 RBIs for the double-A Jacksonville Suns.
It has been four years since Loewen and Martin stood on the same field. Back in 2001, they wore red and white Canada jerseys for the national junior team. Loewen was on the mound and Martin was playing third.
They wore orange and blue in the Futures Games. Martin popped up and walked in his two at-bats.
“The Dodgers scout who signed me, Clarence Johns, told me that there was a chance they might convert me,” Martin said. “That fall I went to instructional and all I did was block balls in the dirt, day after day.
“Did I mind switching positions? I was for anything that would get me to the majors.”
And Martin is on the Dodgers’ 40-man protected list. As is Mathieson with the Phillies and Loewen with the Orioles. Loewen entered with men on second, got a fly ball out, issued a walk and then got the double play ball.
“I had a great talk with Tommy John after the game. He told me about how long a journey it is through the minors,” Loewen said. “About how some nights your second-best pitch is your best.”
Martin was the backup to catcher Pete Laforest for Canada when it qualified for the Olympics in November of 2003 in Panama.
“What a great bunch we had, every night was the same,” Martin said, of Canada’s upset qualification, while Team USA did not make it. “We stuck together. We’re Canadian.”
And Martin, a citizen of the world, knows what that means. He spent two years in France when his father worked for the Le Agency Corporation International, an organization which helped set up community radio stations for French-speaking countries in Africa.