Martin's long journey finally leads to Majors
Rockies reliever went from working retail to shutting down Dodgers
Pete Incaviglia laughs at the memory of the call he made to Boston scout Jaymie Bane back in the spring of 2012, pleading with Bane to give pitcher Chris Martin a chance in baseball.
"I told him, 'I have a guy you need to bring to your Minor League tryout camp. And after he throws his first pitch, you can call me and say thanks.'" said Incaviglia, who was the manager of the independent Grand Prairie (Texas) Air Hogs at the time. "Jaymie said he wasn't sure.
"I said, 'Jaymie, how many people have I called you about?' He said, 'None.' I told him, 'Just bring him in.'"
And what happened?
"Chris went to the workout in Florida, and after he threw his first pitch, Jaymie called me and said, 'Thanks,'" Incaviglia said.
Martin hasn't disappointed. He not only made good on that tryout with the Boston Red Sox, but in December 2013, he was traded by the Red Sox, along with Franklin Morales, to the Colorado Rockies -- the team that drafted him out of junior college -- in exchange for Jonathan Herrera.
And last week, Martin's dream finally came true. He was called to the big leagues on April 25, and he made his big league debut with a shutout inning against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium the next night.
Now, Martin is headed home with the Rockies, who play games Wednesday and Thursday against the Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, which is a couple miles from Martin's childhood home.
"There'll probably be 100-plus friends and family members at the game," said Martin. "My dad might be a little more excited than me."
That's hard to believe.
Martin is truly living the dream. It was his dream growing up, and his dream in college, but it turned into a nightmare when Martin blew out his shoulder in junior college, and the dream was only rekindled by happenstance.
After graduating from Arlington High School, Martin went to McLennan Community College, where he pitched well enough as a freshman that both Oklahoma and Texas made overtures. Colorado, however, selected him in the 21st round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as what was known as a "draft and follow" -- a junior college player the big league team would watch in his sophomore season and have until the week before the next Draft to sign him.
Martin's sophomore season, however, never was. His shoulder started bothering him early in the season, and while doctors couldn't find anything wrong, the aches and pains grew. By the end of his sophomore year, Martin's baseball ambitions were history.
In 2007, Martin finally had surgery for a partially torn labrum. He then tried out for the independent Fort Worth Cats and made the team, but he couldn't throw.
"My shoulder did not respond," Martin said. "I decided to hang up my cleats."
First, Martin worked in a Lowe's, and then for UPS. Finally, he got a job in the warehouse at Texas Appliance, where his boss was a baseball fan and brought a glove to work one day.
"We played catch in the back of the warehouse for about 30 minutes," said Martin. "The next day, my shoulder felt good. I decided to get in shape and try out for the Air Hogs."
Incaviglia ran an annual tryout camp for kids in the Grand Prairie area. It was as much a goodwill effort on the team's part as a talent search.
"Usually, you don't find a guy in one of those camps, but sometimes you get surprised," said Incaviglia.
This time, in the summer of 2010, Incaviglia was surprised.
"I'm working with the position players and they are screaming, 'Pete, Pete, get over here,'" said Incaviglia. "I go over to where the pitchers are throwing. This kid is throwing 94, 95 [mph], and he's hitting corners.
"It was a no-brainer. We started him out in non-pressure situations out of the bullpen to help him get adjusted and build up arm strength, and eventually put him in the rotation. The rest is history. He's the best pitcher I've ever seen in independent ball."
The history, however, is still being written.
"Making the big leagues never crossed my mind," Martin said. "I just wanted to play baseball again and hopefully extend my career. My goal [with Grand Prairie] was to get into affiliated baseball."
The thought process changed, however, when the trade was made and Martin found himself going to Colorado, the team that had drafted him back in 2005.
"For the Rockies to want me was a definite boost to my confidence," he said. "It showed other people were confident in me."
The confidence was well-founded. The big league opportunity came. Martin, however, isn't satisfied.
"I am glad I got called up, but it hasn't really set in yet," he said. "I hope it never sets in. I want this to always be fun."
With the journey Martin took to get to the big leagues, he has earned a chance to have fun.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.