Red Sox

A conversation with Pedro Martinez, covering his career and more

“The best advice I got told was don’t quit. Don’t give up. I’m glad I listened."

Pedro Martínez addresses the crowd at a game in 2014. Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Boston.com sat down with Pedro Martinez and his wife, Carolina Cruz Martinez, ahead of the 6th Annual Pedro Martinez Foundation Gala set for Nov. 11 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – to discuss his current work, his time with the Red Sox, life as a baseball dad, and much more. This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

BDC: Going back to your childhood, how did you get into baseball? Is it true you played catch with oranges?

PM: I did. In our family, it was four boys and two girls. We also had a whole bunch of cousins. We had this backyard where we could all get together. You know how it is, when you get all your cousins together. We used to play catch with oranges. Whatever was around. Old socks, we taped them up, tied them up, it was good enough for baseball. We’d take a piece of stick and swing at it in the backyard. If you got it far enough, you could get it over the fence. That was a homer. We’d spend the entire day playing with whatever was around. That included – not being bad, because I rewarded my sisters a lot – they used to have little dolls. We would take the little head off, and they would allow us to take it. Whatever was around, that was good enough for us to play.

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Then we kept hearing stories about my dad and my uncle, how they played baseball. My older brother, Ramon, got to see my dad play baseball, but I didn’t. My dad retired way before I was big enough to go see him play baseball. He had some pictures of the house of him playing baseball. We heard stories around the neighborhood about how good my dad was. Even Felipe Alou got to face my dad. He later on became one of the best players for the Dominican Republic in the big leagues and also an Olympian. He told me stories about my dad. The way I fell in love with baseball was by listening to stories about my dad, my uncles, and my brother Ramon. I got to see him playing baseball a lot, so I wanted to get into what he was getting. That motivated me a lot to get better.

BDC: What do you remember most about your time with the Red Sox? What was it like playing for such a passionate fan base?

PM: They’re just expressing their support. Believe it or not, even when things go south for the Red Sox, and they boo and they don’t feel comfortable, it’s only showing you love. They want you to do well. That I could sense. Boston is passionate. Boston is the most loyal fan base in all of baseball. Regardless of how bad we get beat up, the fans don’t quit supporting you. They’re at the field. If they boo you, it’s because you’re not doing probably what you’re supposed to do. Boston knows baseball better than any other fan base. They know their players. We have radio stations here that are 24/7 talking sports. They know every detail about you. The day you don’t hustle a groundball to first, they’re going to let you know. At the same time, when you do well, they support you, they love you. They don’t quit on you. That’s why I have such a strong relationship with the fan base in Boston. They love you dearly when they see you giving your max effort out there to be good. I have a lot of respect for Boston. My experience here in Boston is probably the greatest. Not only was I put up to the challenge, but I can say I did it. Boston will never forget that, and Boston will never let me go away from that. Boston realizes how much of an effort I made to win a championship for them, and I was able to deliver that for them. It’s a mutual relationship. That’s why everything we do, we do in Boston. Boston has been the most supportive of all. Not taking anything from other cities, but we just feel more comfortable here in Boston. We feel like people reflect what we want to do better than anywhere else.

BDC: What are your thoughts on the organization right now? Specifically, how should they proceed with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers?

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PM: I think we’re going to get it done. I know it’s a moment to bite your nails, because they are going to be testing free agency, especially Bogey and JD (Martinez). At the same time, I’m optimistic we’re going to find a way to bring Bogey back and keep the culture of the team that we built together. Bogey was part of it. JD was part of one of them. Devers has been part of it. I’m hoping that we can find a way to get it done and to get those guys back. Hopefully the team will be a competitive team next year being healthy. The team was never healthy.

BDC: How about Brayan Bello? You mentioned he has Cy Young potential. What encourages you about his future?

PM: It was sad that they brought him up a little bit prematurely, but the need called for him to be up. Next year, he’s going to be more experienced. Hopefully we’ll work on some of the things that didn’t work for him this year during the winter and during Spring Training. He’s one exciting prospect that everyone wants to watch. It actually brings back memories of who I was, except he’s probably at the same age a little bit better. 

BDC: Does he remind you most of yourself out of any pitcher the Red Sox have had since you pitched here?

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PM: He’s really up there in talent. I’ve seen (Clay) Buchholz come up. I’ve seen some guys like that that were really impressive. (Jon) Lester. It’s really difficult to judge the talent, but without a doubt, he has the tools to become a Jon Lester, to become a Pedro Martinez, to become a Clay Buchholz, someone like that, that wasn’t that impressive early in their career with the Boston Red Sox. He has a very bright, bright future.

BDC: Your son, Pedro Jr., has carved out a role with the Brockton Rox. What’s it like being a baseball dad?

PM: It gives me a sense of pride to know that my kids are well-loved and well-received here in Boston, just like I am. I don’t want to be biased, but my kid is a good kid. I’m glad he’s able to communicate and appreciate my fan base and also share some of it. I’m glad he chose to come over here to speed some time in his native New England. I’m just proud. I’m a proud papa. When I see D’Angelo [Ortiz], I see Manny Jr., everybody looking for the roots, that’s why I thought it was so important to have the culture here in Boston that everybody here in Boston is kind of reliving with Bogaerts, Devers, and now Bello. Their kids will probably come over just like mine did and kind of take over the culture.

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BDC: What went through your mind when you found out you, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Keith Foulke would all have kids on the same team? Did it help you guys reconnect at all?

PM: Yeah, I was extremely happy to see that everybody followed my kids’ steps. Pedro was the first one to come over and play for the Rox. Then Manny Jr., since they’re really close friends, wanted to come. D’Angelo wanted to come. Basically David said if all the kids are going to be there, let’s have them all together. They’re all friends, just like me, Manny, and David were. They wanted to be together. Hopefully Boston will get ahold of all of them, and we get to see them in Fenway Park.

BDC: How would you describe your demeanor during a game when you watch Pedro Jr. play?

PM: I’m tough on him. I’m tough, but I have to be, because baseball’s not easy. If I told you it was easy, I’d be lying. He’s probably going to tell you dad is a bully when it comes to keeping me straight. That’s what I ask him to be. I ask him to be disciplined, to take the game seriously, and to play the game the right way. I don’t want him to bring any blemish on me that I didn’t bring on myself. It can be difficult for him to look at all the things I’ve done and try to emulate that, especially here in Boston.

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BDC: What advice would you give to young baseball players trying to make it?

PM: Not to quit. I tried. I tried to quit, and I was advised not to. In 1993, I wanted to quit, because I didn’t make the team out of spring training. I was promised an opportunity, and I did the best I could probably do. I earned a spot, and I was denied that spot because of the luxury of having options to go down to Triple-A. Not only was I betrayed by the organization, but they lied to me. That made me feel so disappointed, after doing so well, better than anybody on the team, and being sent down, back to the Minors. I did what I needed to do in the Minors. Minor League player of the year, pitcher of the year. All those achievements. I broke every record that they had in the Minor Leagues, and I got sent back to the Minors, not because I didn’t do my job. It was disappointing, to the point that I wanted to quit.

The best advice I got told was don’t quit. Don’t give up. I’m glad I listened. Today, I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t listen to that advice. Whoever’s out there, whatever kid wants to look to baseball, never quit. Never lose sight of your goal. Just keep battling, keep giving the best that you can give, and hopefully you have results like I did.

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Boston.com: What should people know about the Pedro Martinez Foundation? Why does it mean so much to both of you?

Pedro Martinez: I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I got that I thought I could come up with something to help people. I realized that education is the main reason why I’m here, why I was able to make it to the United States. Discipline and education were the first factors that came into play in order for me to learn what I wanted to learn and develop the way I developed. Right away, I went and took a peek at how I could help through education, to open doors for kids who probably would need an opportunity. I think I hit the jackpot on that one. For me, it’s always been a vision that I’ve had, improving other people’s lives by giving them an opportunity to succeed. That’s what I did, and that’s why I do it. I’m passionate about it, and Boston is the perfect place. They understand, they know me, and they know what I’m all about. They’ve been supportive forever, and we have a very strong relationship.

Carolina Martinez: There’s that need to see mentors, to see people that, in their mindset, made it. They want to make it like we did. When we go back home, and we see a house got fixed because of a donation, a kid is getting his monthly meds because of a sponsor, or one of our kids is improving his or her grades because of the tutoring class we give them at the Community Center, that’s what makes us continue to be engaged and to be committed to what we do through the Pedro Martinez Foundation. Needs change every year. Society has changed, seasons have changed, COVID has changed us all. Even more now, there’s a stronger need for us to continue to do what we do.

BDC: Can you provide some concrete examples of how you’ve seen certain kids blossom over the years?

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PM: Any time you start to feel like you’re tired of what you’re doing, all it takes is to look at one of those kids that just graduated from college, that is going into an office to work. When you see them get married and start a family, because they now have a job, they have the opportunity to raise a family, it’s such a feeling that it makes you fight back. It makes you just wake up and go again. It’s such a satisfaction to see a young kid, when you see them at 7 years old, and now, all of a sudden, they’re 22 and have graduated. They have a goal in mind, and they can do it because we granted them that opportunity to get there. A lot of people probably imagine that what we’re striving to get is baseball players, or maybe volleyball players, because Carolina was a volleyball player, and I was a baseball player. No, that’s not the case. We have a lot more kids that have developed into accountants, engineers, and lawyers in our foundation than we have athletes.

CM: If you go to our Community Center, our receptionist is an alumna. She was part of the program. She started when she was around 11. She graduated high school, she’s going to college, and she’s a receptionist for the Community Center. The director of our operations in the Community Center, his assistant was also part of the program. She graduated with a BA in communications in the Dominican Republic. The assistant to the program’s coordinator is also an alumna that went through the program. She’s studying fashion design and is working at the Community Center. We have tons of stories. We invite you to come over to the Dominican, to the Community Center, to the neighborhood, and walk around. There’s so many of them that have gone through the program of the foundation. They’ve gone through different lines of life, and they all took a little bit of what we influenced them with.

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