2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
MONTREAL _ Every 20 years or so Russell Martin looks up when he’s on the mound and there’s dear old dad.
The first time was as an 11-year-old pitching for NDG in a game at Drummondville.
“I threw hard back then and hit a player in the head,” said Montreal’s newest darling after the Toronto Blue Jays beat up the Cincinnati Reds 9-1 Saturday afternoon to close out the pretend ball.
“The umpire gave me an automatic ejection so my dad went crazy yelling at the ump and he was kicked out too. Finally, the father came to the mound and the two of walked off together.
“Yeah, back in those days there wasn’t much love for an NDG team in Drummondville.”
And as for the second walk …
It happened Saturday afternoon.
In the Martins’ home town.
And it probably capped two days of ovations more than the number of hits the Jays managed Saturday (15).
Martin received his final round of applause when he stood on the mound going over the signals with reliever Luis Perez, who had just entered the game, before the start of the seventh.
If there are 30 every day catchers in the majors very few catch a day game after a night game during the regular season.
It’s too tough on the knees.
If there are 30 every day catchers in the majors absolutely none catch a day game after a night game in either a spring training or exhibition play.
But Martin was home.
People came to see him.
So he caught both games.
“I heard someone say something and turned,” said Martin.
There was his father, also named Russell coming to get his son.
This was nothing like hostile Drummondville.
There was only love for Martin And Son from the 50,231 fans at Olympic Stadium.
There were even tears as the father and son hugged then went for a father and son walk towards the first base dugout as minor-leaguer Sean Ochinko took over for Martin behind the plate.
The same father and son duo who had owned Friday night: pops on his sax, son standing with the other Jays down the right field line with tears trickling down his cheek.
Manager John Gibbons made a rare trip to the mound Friday to hook … catcher Martin so he could get another round of applause.
And then likely Gibbons who shied from credit came up with the new one-inning addition to the coaching staff.
“I really didn’t hear what he said … something like ‘let’s get out of here son,’” said Martin and it sounded like a guess.
With all that noise and applause going on — not to mention the pounding of the two giant heart beats — who could hear?
The two-game total for the Reds-Jays series was 96,545, which betters last year’s New York Mets-Jays total of 96,450.
“This shows baseball is alive in Montreal,” Martin told reporters. “Montreal has a chance.”
The city has been without a major-league team since 2004 when the MLB-owned Expos bolted for Washington D.C.
“I didn’t anticipate this … ovation after ovation,” Martin said. “I pictured something but nothing like this. It was a totally different atmosphere.”
Martin told of his father playing catch with him for hours at Loyola Park in NDG.
“You fast track 25 years and there he is standing on the mound with me and taking me off the field at the Big O in front of a full house,” Martin said. “I’ll look back at this weekend years from now.”
It doesn’t get much better than that.
If MLB Production doesn’t have film of this weekend to air Father’s Day, someone should be on it … first thing ,.. Monday morn … hut hut … snap to it.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting it,” Martin said. “If not for my father I’m not here. He made me who I am.”
Imagine how excited the fans would have been had Martin gone deep over the centre field wall as Josh Donaldson did for the game’s first run?
Or if he had pair of doubles like Dioner Navarro?
Or a pair of knocks like Devon Travis.
On the weekend Martin was hitless in five at-bats with three strikeouts and a walk …
And now it’s on to New York to open the 2015 season with a three-game series starting Monday afternoon against the New York Yankees.
“I like our team, we have a group of veterans and kids,” Martin said.
Martin was a Yankee in 2011 and 2012 as his team made post-season play both years.
He’ll likely be welcomed back in his first at-bat.
It won’t be anything like the reception he received in Montreal.