Who's Your Daddy? Pedro Martinez Jr. Making Own Fame as Teen Hitting Star

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistJune 20, 2017

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez speaks during an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Cooperstown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Angelo Mauricio Belgiovane

Look at him. Just look at those cherubic, chubby cheeks. Eyes straight ahead, hands on knees, crouching, ready to pounce on the next baseball that travels his way. Boston Red Sox jersey and baby-faced. Just like his father.

The child in the picture is 16 now. A boy on the cusp of manhood. A baller in the Dominican Republic facing an adult decision: Does he reach for a pen next month when he becomes eligible to sign a professional baseball contract? Or does he stay in school and work on developing his imperfect game?

He has been dreaming of this day for so long that you can practically close your eyes and picture him as a boy, with a baseball glove, a legacy and, shoot, maybe even a mango tree nearby.

"It's still there!" exclaims Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr., 16, youngest son of Pedro You-Know-Who, Hall of Famer and the dad in this story. "It's in Manoguayabo, the place where my dad comes from. Where my grandma had her first house.

"He has a little spot there where he grows food and vegetables. He loves flowers. He tells me stories about how he would study and do his homework on the mango tree. The branches are very strong, and he would sit on one of them and do his homework."

It was following a bitter Game 2 loss in the 2004 American League Championship Series to the hated New York Yankees that his pitcher/poet/philosopher father unspooled what at once was a classic line, after some 56,000 full-throated denizens of Yankee Stadium lustily serenaded him throughout the game with chants of "Who's Your Daddy?! Who's Your Daddy?!" It became the Bronx's favorite taunt when, after another frustrating loss to the Yankees machine a month earlier Martinez told reporters, "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy."

"I actually realized that I was somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus you [the media], plus the whole world watching a guy that, if you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus," Pedro Sr. said after that Game 2 loss. "And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York."

Though he lost Game 2 of the 2004 ALCS, Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox rebounded to stun the Yankees in seven games and head to the World Series.
Though he lost Game 2 of the 2004 ALCS, Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox rebounded to stun the Yankees in seven games and head to the World Series.AMY SANCETTA/Associated Press

Like that sturdy old mango tree first referenced more than a decade ago, the branches of Pedro Martinez's family have grown sturdy, and they continue to bear fruit. Together with wife Carolina, Pedro is a proud parent of Pedro Isias Martinez, 17, and Pedro Pablo.

The game has hooked both of his boys. No surprise there. The eldest is playing high school ball in Boca Raton, Florida. That's where the youngest will land this fall if the family delays the start of Pedro Jr.'s professional baseball career.

"To be honest, as a dad, I don't want to trade education for now," Pedro Martinez told B/R during a conversation this spring. "And he's got some stuff he needs to develop still. But without a doubt, the skills are there.

"I'm hoping that he's patient enough to hold on and go to junior college. I am leaning toward education, but I know he realizes he can play with those kids who have been signing in the Dominican."

       

WHO CAN BE patient at 16? A slugging third baseman in the International Prospect League in the Dominican Republic, Martinez Jr. has been playing baseball since he took his first steps. He drinks it in as if the game is liquid and he is the thirstiest man on earth. And still, he cannot get enough. He catapults from one drill to the next as if all of this hustle and bustle will bring tomorrow today.

"Nice kid," says Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez, who has spent time with him in the weight room during spring training. "Quiet. Respectful. He loves baseball. Loves it."

"Oh my gosh; you have no idea," Martinez Jr. says from his home in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, during a recent telephone conversation. "I'm really excited just to put a uniform on and play baseball professionally. It's a dream come true.

Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. has wanted to follow his father into the majors since he was a boy growing up in the Dominican Republic.
Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. has wanted to follow his father into the majors since he was a boy growing up in the Dominican Republic.Photo courtesy of Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr.

Friendly and articulate, earnest and intelligent, he is a pleasure to speak with. School has just let out for the summer. Instant freedom. Wide-open days. Already, he says, he misses his friends. But now is not the time for summer frivolity. It is the time for the love of his life, baseball. So he dives into it each day, hard, with every bit of the focus of a high school kid filling out college applications to all the best schools.

One way or another, like his father says, his education will continue.

Question is, will it be the book kind, or the baseball kind?

"To me, he's one of the best players for July 2, 2017, right now," says Amaury Nina, president of the IPL, referencing the opening date of this year's international signing period. "Seven or eight teams want to sign him, have a lot of interest, so we're waiting to see what's going to happen. His dad wants him to go to college first."

Nina says he agrees with Pedro Sr., that he also has sons and that he would do the same thing. It is a giant leap, indeed, from childhood to the pros at 16.

"I don't think his son agrees, because his son wants to play," Nina continues, adding, "He's one of the best hitters I see right here in the Dominican at his age."

That is no casual statement. One of the prospects who came through his league is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and is starring in the Class A Midwest League for the Lansing (Michigan) Lugnuts, batting .327 with four homers and 39 RBI in 58 games. The Chicago Cubs' top prospect, Eloy Jimenez, who signed for $2.8 million in 2013, also played in the IPL. So, too, did Kansas City prospect Elier Hernandez, who signed for $3.05 million (2011); and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yadier Alvarez, who signed for $16 million (2015). 

Nina was involved with the signing of each of those players. And so, as he quickly will tell you, when he says something, he knows what he's talking about.

"Let me tell you something," Nina says. "I had Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the IPL, too, and I don't say that Pedro's son has the same power Vladimir Jr. has, but it's going to be similar one day. Some players get power early, and some you have to wait a little bit more. I think Pedro is going to have to wait a little to have the same power as Vladimir Jr., but hitting-wise, I think they both have the same ability."

The school in Boca Raton is both a fallback plan and negotiating leverage. If his financial offers are disappointing when this summer's international signing period opens, then, well, playing ball with his brother at school in Florida is a pretty good option.

But it certainly is not plan A for young Pedro.

Though his father hopes he heads to college, Pedro Martinez Jr. has become a prospect major league teams may not be able to ignore when he becomes eligible to sign a contract in early July.
Though his father hopes he heads to college, Pedro Martinez Jr. has become a prospect major league teams may not be able to ignore when he becomes eligible to sign a contract in early July.Angelo Mauricio Belgiovane

Martinez Jr. rises early for his daily workouts. Typically, he says, he works on his speed and strengthening his legs from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., then takes a short break, eats lunch and heads to the IPL facility in Santo Domingo to take ground balls and batting practice. Then he and several teammates go to a local track for some long-distance running. After that, toward 8 p.m., he moves on to the gym and works his upper body for an hour or so before he goes home and stretches. Then, he has a protein drink, eats dinner and goes to sleep.

Next day, he does it all over again.

Underpinning everything he does is an understanding. Given his father's Hall of Fame career, and the fact that his uncle Ramon produced a 14-year career for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates with one All-Star appearance (1990, Dodgers), Martinez Jr. plays with a big shadow and strong brand recognition always looming.

"It's actually been a challenge," Pedro Jr. says of the legacy created by his dad and uncle. "I've gotten to learn a lot from them. My father, he's a father who wants me to train my hardest. His personality is just that way, and the numbers he put up in the bigs, there's a lot of pressure."

Also understood, however, is this: Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. is going to do it his way. Though he has pitched some—also like his dad and unclehe "wasn't a big fan of pitching" and thoroughly prefers hitting and playing the infield.

"Third base, I describe it as one of the hardest positions to play, but at same time one of the most entertaining because you need to have certain abilities for you to be able to play that base," he says.

"And I'm a guy who likes challenges. What can I say? I like things hard."

Pedro Jr. has long enjoyed the challenges of playing in the infield more than taking after his father and pitching.
Pedro Jr. has long enjoyed the challenges of playing in the infield more than taking after his father and pitching.Angelo Mauricio Belgiovane

Pedro Sr. told both sons from the time they could walk that what they wanted to do when it came to baseball or anything else in this world would be up to them, not up to him.

"As a matter of fact, I never asked them to play baseball," the Hall of Famer says. "They just came up and said, 'Daddy, I want to play.'

"And I said, 'You know what, it's going to be fun from one to 13. But after 13, I'm going to treat you like a man and I'm going to hit you hard. And I'm going to work your tail off and you're going to have to be disciplined.'

"Never embarrass me on things I did not embarrass myself."

And so it is: Pedro Martinez Jr. likes to train hard.

Working his legs is a priority because the weakest part of his game, according to just about everyonehis father, his uncle, scouts and Ninais his lack of speed. Though he has improved lately, not long ago he was clocked at 6.7, 6.8 seconds in the 60-yard dash.

"Third base only, actions are just OK," noted an international scouting director with one major league club who has scouted Martinez Jr. "Looks like he should go to JUCO in South Florida and keep getting stronger. Right-hand bat has fringe bat speed with gap juice. Heavy feet moving around."

The belief is that Martinez Jr. is a fast-growing, gangly kid who still is an unfinished product. At 6'2", he's already outgrown his father, who is 5'11". Ramon Martinez is 6'4", and the other uncles are tall as well. So Pedro Sr. has helped his son get into a running program designed to increase his speed.

Considered a promising hitter, Pedro Martinez Jr. has some scouts believing he needs to work on his strength and speed if he is to succeed as a professional.
Considered a promising hitter, Pedro Martinez Jr. has some scouts believing he needs to work on his strength and speed if he is to succeed as a professional.Angelo Mauricio Belgiovane

"Because where can he get the slow legs?" Martinez Sr. says. "I was always fast. Ramon was a super athlete; he ran better than I did. Jesus, my younger brother, was also a runner. We were all runners. So I don't see where he's not going to run. That would be the only thing where he needs to work harder."

   

THOUGH HE'S LIVED a baseball life, Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. is young enough that he doesn't recall much of his father's career. Wide-eyed, he heard all of those "Who's Your Daddy?" chants in Yankee Stadium, but he heard them during the 2009 World Series, when his father was pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies in the final season of his well-decorated career.

Red meat to a den of Yankees fans, they never let him forget. Pedro started Games 2 and 6 in the 2009 World Series, both in Yankee Stadium and packaged with lustrous "Who's Your Daddy" soundtracks that Yankee fans never forgot. He was charged with the loss in both games, the Yankees nicking him for four runs in four innings in Game 6, clinching their 27thand most recentWorld Series title. Though Martinez gamely battled, at 37, time had chiseled away the sharp edges that made him an ace during all of those classic Red Sox-Yankees battles earlier in the decade.

Though he lost two games in the 2009 World Series, Pedro Sr.'s calm under pressure made an impression on his then-young son.
Though he lost two games in the 2009 World Series, Pedro Sr.'s calm under pressure made an impression on his then-young son.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

"I love the way he can handle pressure," says Martinez Jr., who was seven in '09. "He's really cool. He doesn't let those things get to him.

"I can remember his Phillies starts. It was pretty fun. I got to experience a couple of stadiums, see my dad pitch. I got to have the clubhouse experience; I actually got a hat signed from all the Phillies then: Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth. It was really nice."

He keeps that hat on top of his nightstand, next to his bed.

One day, maybe he will have his own major league cap.

"They were always full of questions," Pedro Sr. says of his sons. "The most intriguing questions would be the stuff out of the ordinary. Like, 'Daddy, how is it that you're all in there naked taking a shower?' Those are awkward questions. It's like, 'We're all boys. We all get together.' And it was like, 'Oh, OK, that's kind of cool.' They don't realize until they have to do it."

The best piece of wisdom Martinez Jr. recalls his father dispensing, though, has nothing to do with showers and everything to do with toughness.

"'There's no crying in baseball,'" Pedro Jr. recalls. "I think that's the one that had the most impact on me."

So he grinds. He runs lap after lap, knocks off drill after drill, chasing his dream of extendingand expandingthe family legacy. A Pedro Martinez hitting instead of pitching? Yes, there are some things he must figure out on his own.

"I do help a lot," Martinez Sr. acknowledges. "I understand from a pitcher's perspective what the swings have to do, what you have to do to hit a breaking ball, how you compare your bat speed and all those things, and he knows I know.

"Without a doubt, a lot of people have helped him, too."

Pedro Sr. has tried to impart what he's learned about the game to Pedro Jr. but hopes his son is recognized for his talents more than his last name.
Pedro Sr. has tried to impart what he's learned about the game to Pedro Jr. but hopes his son is recognized for his talents more than his last name.Photo courtesy of Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr.

Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. turns 17 on Aug. 30 and says his father "is the one who knows what he's going to do with me." Clearly, the fairy tale would be if the Red Sox sign him, though as Pedro Sr. acknowledges, "It's really difficult because it's hard for the organization to tell me the negativity about some of the things they might see. Everybody [there] has so much respect for me."

Flip side is, Pedro is around Boston so often, it would be easier for him to keep closer tabs on his son's development.

"As much as I want that, I also would like people to just recognize him for his talent, and not for daddy's legacy," Martinez says. "I would like him to be a humble man, yes. I would like him to be a good role-model citizen. But in baseball, I would like other people to do the judgment. I don't really want to judge him for myself because my love for him is way bigger than his talent."

Always, Pedro Sr. speaks with passion. He is a stickler for what is right and wrong, a proponent of the theory that kids should be prepared to thread their way through life in far more areas than simply between the baselines. Especially his kids.

The way he figures it, if you have talent and health, you eventually will make your money. Since those long-ago days when his youngest son wore a blue "Gigantes" top and hoisted the bat that one day would carry him to this point, the family has been bracing for the big decisions.

"Let's just pray that the kid can stay healthy and he can do what we expect him to do," Pedro Sr. says. "But he's going to work his tail off; that's a guarantee. That is a guarantee.

"And he's going to be educated and disciplined, too. Or else I will consider myself a failure."

Some 20 minutes from the son's home, the tree made famous by his father continues to thrive. Pedro Jr.'s grandmother has moved and Pedro Sr. owns the property, but no longer is there any homework done under that tree. Nor does Pedro Pablo Martinez Jr. have time to sit on one of its branches, like his father did, to contemplate life's big decisions.

"Honestly," he says cheerfully, "I just take mangoes from it."

         

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball. Prospect rankings provided by Baseball America.

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