GARY | Drew Martinez calls his biggest fan after his baseball games.
What's different about Martinez's phone calls than the average call home from a RailCats outfielder is that Martinez is taking his advice from someone who has been there, sat in a clubhouse, been hit by a professional pitch or swung at a ball that was too far off the bag.
Drew's father is Chito Martinez, the first Major League Baseball player born in Belize. Chito hit 13 home runs in his rookie season in the big leagues for the Baltimore Orioles.
"I'm very proud to see my father play in the big leagues, not many people can say that," Drew Martinez said. "Being around it nonstop, I love it. He let me play other spots, he didn't say 'hey, you need to play baseball,' it just helps that I have a father who played so its something I can relate to."
Drew was 2 years old when his father earned a spot on the Orioles roster in 1991 and five when his dad played his last game in Baltimore in 1993.
Like Chito, Drew is an outfielder. Like Chito, Drew is a left-handed hitter.
Unlike Chito, Drew's power doesn't come from the long ball.
"He's a power guy, I'm a speed guy," Drew said. "I like to make it exciting and interesting. I like stealing bases and making catches; I like to make it fun. I'm just trying to wreak havoc on the base paths and do everything I can. I'm not trying to be different, but at the same time I want to win."
The RailCats picked up Martinez when he was released by the L.A. Angels in mid-April. Manager Greg Tagert said he couldn't let Martinez's outfield skills slip away.
With an already veteran-heavy outfield, Martinez earned his spot as the starting center fielder in spring training and his chip-away baseball style is quintessential RailCats.
"All the players, including Tagert made it easy for me to adjust and get done what I needed to," Martinez said. "I'm always up for a challenge and do what I needed to, and I'm glad to be here."
With his April release from Angels spring training, the RailCats weren't the only team on Martinez' phone. Tagert wanted to scoop up the outfielder as quickly as possible.
His speed is undeniable and how he'll patrol center is still wait-and-see. Martinez beat out veteran Chris Colton for the final outfield spot, and he's a spitfire want to prove why he deserves the spot.
"I was looking for a place to play," Martinez said. "I didn't want to sit around and I'm glad to get the opportunity.
"With everything I've heard about this team, I wanted to be here no matter what."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.