Pe­dro makes pitch for Ex­pos 2.0

En­ter­ing hall, Martinez fondly re­calls Mon­treal

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - BASEBALL - By Fred­eric Daigle

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — You can add Pe­dro Martinez to the list of for­mer Ex­pos hop­ing for the re­turn of a Ma­jor League Base­ball club to Mon­treal.

The three-time Cy Young win­ner de­liv­ered a plea for the re­turn of base­ball to Mon­treal Satur­day af­ter­noon at a press con­fer­ence prior to his in­duc­tion into the Base­ball Hall of Fame.

“It’s great that Mon­treal is fa­cil­i­tat­ing dis­cus­sions. As soon as pos­si­ble, we need to get a club back,” he said to an as­sem­bled crowd of about 50 jour­nal­ists. “I think Mon­treal was robbed of the chance to have a great team that could have marked history.”

Martinez has fond mem­o­ries of play­ing in Mon­treal, which he de­scribed as “a fan­tas­tic city with fan­tas­tic peo­ple” and “the safest city I’ve played in.”

He re­ferred again later to his suc­cess­ful time with the Ex­pos, where he won his first Cy Young in 1997, just be­fore leav­ing to join the Bos­ton Red Sox.

“I feel a lot of pride for hav­ing played there — as much as in Bos­ton, New York and Philadelphia — you can say I’ve done the whole Eastern di­vi­sion.” he said. “All my sup­port­ers are welcome; all my friends from Mon­treal are welcome,” he said, speak­ing the last few words in French.

“All these cities are part of a great base­ball tra­di­tion. I’m very proud to have had the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent base­ball in so many dif­fer­ent places.”

Martinez, smil­ing and ca­su­ally dressed, spoke easily with re­porters dur­ing the 40-minute news con­fer­ence. He is the sec­ond Do­mini­can to be in­ducted to the Hall of Fame — Juan Marichal is the first — and spent the first 20 min­utes of the con­fer­ence an­swer­ing ques­tions from Span­ish­s­peak­ing media.

“I’ve al­ways been open about the per­son I am. But to re­ally know me, you need to spend time with me on a daily ba­sis,” he said.

“I’m an or­di­nary guy once I take off my uni­form,” he con­tin­ued. “I’m like­able, I’m a joker, I like gar­den­ing and fish­ing. I’m a very in­volved fa­ther. I love my mother and I adore gar­den­ing with her. My favourite pas­time be­fore get­ting on the mound was to trim my flow­ers.”

Martinez told the as­sem­bled re­porters he would de­liver his in­duc­tion speech to­day in two lan­guages, both English and Span­ish.

“You know it’s not a lack of re­spect,” he said. “Base­ball is Amer­i­can and we’re in Amer­ica. But my roots are Do­mini­can and I plan on re­spect­ing them, like I re­spect you, by do­ing part of my speech in Span­ish.”

Martinez, who fin­ished his ca­reer with 219 wins and 100 losses, de­clined to dis­cuss the specifics of his speech.

“If I’m too emo­tional, there’s a large part of my speech I won’t be able to de­liver,” he said, although he sug­gested he would put “all the colour and the warmth of my peo­ple” into the speech.

Although he only pitched 11 games of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer with the Ex­pos, Randy John­son nev­er­the­less has vivid mem­o­ries of his time in Mon­treal.

“My time with the or­ga­ni­za­tion was spe­cial to me,” he said. “When I left univer­sity, I signed a con­tract with the Ex­pos, and I was happy to get to the next level.

“Mon­treal gave me my first chance; it was the foun­da­tion of my ca­reer,” said the fa­mous left­hander, who pitched his way to 303 vic­to­ries and 4,875 strike­outs.

“I still re­mem­ber my Mon­treal de­but against the Pittsburgh Pi­rates — I get shivers talk­ing about it — we won the game and I couldn’t have been hap­pier,” he said.

“In 1989, it didn’t go as well and I was de­moted be­fore be­ing traded to the Seat­tle Mariners, who did some­thing we don’t see any­more: they gave me the time to learn my trade. It’s re­ally there where I be­came the pitcher I was from then on,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to Martinez and John­son, Craig Big­gio and John Smoltz will be in­ducted into the Hall of Fame to­day.

—The Cana­dian Press

MAR­COS TOWNSEND / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Fire­baller Pe­dro Martinez won his first Cy Young award with the Mon­treal Ex­pos in 1997.

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