This weekend’s series in Wrigley Field is a homecoming of sorts for Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez, who debuted in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs as a player back in 1986, three years after they drafted him, and served as the Cubbies’ bench coach under Joe Maddon from 2015-17 before joining the Nats, helping the city end their 108-year World Series drought in 2016.
Early in his time in the nation’s capital, Martinez talked about the impact Maddon had on his career over the ten years they worked together, first in Tampa Bay and then in the so-called Windy City.
“Not only is he a great teacher, but Joe is a student of the game, and he’s always looking for an edge,” Martinez said in an MLB Network Radio interview last November.
“And I was able to be with him and pick his brain about what’s next.”
“We never feel like we know everything,” he continued, “and we want to continue to learn to try to find that edge to compete at the highest level every day.”
His biggest takeaway from his time as Maddon’s bench coach?
“I really believe that the biggest thing for me that I took from Joe is his positivity and the way he processes things, his preparation,” Martinez said.
“It was unbelievable. Over the years, everybody’s heard how we do some very different things, but it’s not things that we don’t think about, it’s not things that we just do on a whim. We base everything on information, and we process everything, and we prepare well for every game, and it’s fun.
“It keeps everybody engaged, it keeps everybody prepared, so those are the things that I really took, and learned, from Joe, as to take all the information and prepare yourself, process it, and put the best guys out there to win the game.”
Returning to Wrigley Field, as a manager for the first time, and managing against his former team and mentor was an emotional experience for Martinez before the game even started.
“It’s a little different, it really is,” Martinez told reporters before the series opener.
“I understand that Joe and I go way back. I started my career as a Cub. Coming back here and being the bench coach and winning the World Series here all means a lot to me, it really does, and it holds an unbelievable memory for me. But now I’ve got a different job, and that’s to get the Nationals to the World Series and win too and I’m excited about that.”
Martinez talked again about what Maddon taught him during their time together before they faced one another as managers for the first time.
“He taught me how to be positive,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“He taught me how to process everything and how to deal with individual players on and off the field. I went to him more than just to help me on the field, off the field, too. He was a true friend and a mentor.”
Asked what the biggest difference was between serving as a bench coach and now working as a manager, Martinez said it was the realization, which sounds obvious, that he is the one who has to take advice and apply it to the decisions he makes after years of offering his opinion.
“I always suggested things to Joe,” he explained, “ultimately he made the final decision, but now I get a lot of things suggested at me, and then I actually make the final decision, that’s the biggest challenge. I could look over and say, ‘Hey, we should do this, this, this,’ and now when I look over, I look and there’s nobody there. I said, ‘Oh, it’s me, okay, here we go.” And I love it. It’s been challenging, but I love it.”
Maddon, who championed Martinez as a managerial candidate for years, said this afternoon he thought returning to Chicago was a big deal for his bench coach.
“I just think it’s a great experience for him to come back to Wrigley and manage at this ballpark and manage against the group that he had been part of, that’s the part that’s different.”