Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Nine of the 20 former American Association players who started spring training in major league camps are still there with less than a week until Opening Day. That is easily the highest total for any Independent league. They are:
Aaron Crow, Miami (Fort Worth 2008-09)
Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth 2006);
Chris Martin, New York-AL (Grand Prairie 2010);
James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie 2010);
Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul 2009);
Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth 2007);
Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota (St. Paul 2011).
Chris Martin Is Fortunate Whether or Not He Makes It to Opening Day with the Yankees
One by one, numerous former American Association players have been informed they would not be starting the season in the major leagues. There have been major surprises like the veteran Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul 2009) with Milwaukee, 2014 phenom John Holdzkom (Sioux City 2013, Amarillo 2014) with Pittsburgh and mid-range hopefuls such as Mark Hamburger (St. Paul 2013) of Minnesota and Bo Schultz (Grand Prairie 2011) with Toronto.
Chris Martin still does not know if he will start the season next Monday with the New York Yankees or be back in Triple-A although chances are this right-handed pitcher by way of Grand Prairie in 2010 will continue to feel pretty good about his life even if he needs to start the season in the minor leagues.
Martin, 28, is one of those pitchers who thought his career had ended because of shoulder miseries seven years ago and worked long days (and nights) at Lowe’s and UPS to make ends meet.
“I’m sure everyone has their own little thing that keeps them going, but I know how fast baseball can get taken away, so I don’t take it for granted,” Martin told MLB.com this spring. “I stay humble because of it.
“I was always going to go back to school and always wanted to be a weather guy; I wanted to chase the tornadoes,” Martin said. “My favorite movie is ‘Twister.’ I remember I saw it as a kid and I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome.’ That was the plan, but I never really got to it. Then baseball came back.”
After not picking up a baseball for about three years (he did play some softball), a tryout got Martin enthused again, and he joined Grand Prairie where then-manager Pete Incaviglia eventually tipped off a Boston scout about his talent. The 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 hurler, depending on which measurement to believe, worked his way up to Triple-A in three years, then spent last season between Colorado (16 relief appearances, 6.75 ERA) and its top farm club in Colorado Springs before the Yankees spent a reported $750,000 for his rights.
“This is my life,” Martin told MLB.com. “Ever since I was born, I had a baseball in my hand. When it was taken away from me, it was pretty hard. I went through a rough time. I’m super blessed to be back playing.”
Perhaps it will be in the Bronx where Martin is believed to be among four relief pitchers vying for two open jobs.