It was Tino Martinez Day today in the Bronx. The former first baseman was with the Yankees from their 1996 – 2000 dynasty run, and was a staple in the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks. He was presented with a plaque that will make its way into Monument Park in the pregame ceremony.
Martinez visited the announcing booth during today’s game and had some revealing comments after being asked questions from both Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill. Initially Martinez admitted, “It’s totally amazing, overwhelming…when I got the call a few months ago, I cried on the phone.” O’Neill added, “Do the Yankees ever do anything that is just not the best? Joe Torre, Mariano..”
Martinez made sure to note how large of a role the fans have had on him both today and over the years. “The fans show up for these events and it makes you feel good…they never let us down.” After being asked about being booed when he first arrived in New York in 1996, Tino said, “I was thrilled to be a Yankee, but going through that first month was tough. The fans loved Donny…they were hard on me, but they pushed me…I knew if I played well they’d eventually get behind me and they did.”
When asked about the teams of the late 90s, Martinez began to credit everyone other than himself, “We had very good baseball players…the attitude of the team was…we want to win every single day…we didn’t care about headlines, we didn’t take days off April, May, June…we won a lot of games together, not going on the DL. Geno and Stevie Donahue, everyone that make this place run the way it runs…probably the best two trainers in the game…not just about the players. Everybody is a part of it, clubhouse, the bat boys, everybody…and we all just clicked well together.”
Michael Kay asked Martinez about his favorite moment. “The perfect games, DiMaggio days, Mantle days, the last outs were the best, the last 4 outs of the 4 World Series…the home run against the Diamondbacks to tie it up, was up there.”
“I came in to work hard every day, but we were all like that. Bernie, Paul, Jeter – Torre tried to give us time off but we never wanted it.”
Lastly, Kay asked Martinez about his final year with New York, in 2005 after spending a few years with other teams. “Coming back in ’05 – that off-season in December I was going to retire, then the Yankees called me to back up Giambi…well if I’m going to play anywhere for one more year that’s it.”
It turns out that Martinez was at first base with the Seattle Mariners when Derek Jeter got his first major league hit, a single. He congratulated Jeter when he got to first saying, “Many more to come.” Little did he know Jeter would eventually become the Yankees’ all-time hits leader.
Martinez will be back tomorrow to complete the weekend festivities with Old Timers Day. Many favorites are expected to be in attendance, but Martinez will be fresh on everyone’s minds.