[ed. note - “We’re looking back at some of the stories that got lost in the shuffle during the long, ultimately disappointing season for the Washington Nationals in 2021. This one is from late in the ‘21 campaign, when the club traveled to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates and a number of Nats traveled with manager Davey Martinez to visit the Roberto Clemente Museum.”]
Roberto Clemente - The baseball god of Latin players:
Davey Martinez led a number of players on a trip to the Roberto Clemente Museum while the club was in Pittsburgh, PA this past September, just before the annual Roberto Clemente Day celebration for Major League Baseball.
The fourth-year skipper in the nation’s capital was thrilled he got to wear the number that Clemente wore for most of his major league career (No. 21) on his own Nationals’ jersey as teams around baseball celebrated the life of the late Pirates’ outfielder.
“It means — obviously you guys know how I feel about Roberto Clemente,” Martinez said in a pregame Zoom call with reporters once the team was back in D.C. after the series in PNC Park. “It means the world to me to represent somebody like him, not only as a player but as a humanitarian. Roberto was — growing up — he was my idol. He was always talked about in my household, not only what he did on the field but off the field. It actually reminds me of who I need to be every day. I will cherish wearing that number. I got all his jerseys at my house. I was going to bring one in the other day, but I wore one the other day, to Pittsburgh, and I had to get it washed.”
Martinez said he was thrilled so many of his players decided to visit the Clemente Museum as a group when he organized the outing during some downtime in the Steel City.
“I’ll tell you, we had a busload,” Martinez explained. “I made sure we had a bus to take us all and the bus was full, which was kind of nice. Obviously they had a choice, I’m not going to force anybody to go, but they all showed up, which was real nice. And then the fact that we sit around and talk about different aspects: What they saw? What they learned? What was the best part of the experience? It was awesome to just kind of communicate with them what they enjoyed, what it meant for them to see something like that, and they all started talking about it.”
The trip had the added advantage of bringing everyone closer as a team, Martinez said.
“It does build team chemistry, and it’s part of our culture, so they understand that whenever we have a chance to do something together, we’re going to do it,” he said.
“This is not the first time this year that we spent time together. I like for these guys to get together other than at the ballpark, away from the ballpark where they can open up and really be themselves, just be a person, not just a player. And it means a lot to not only me, but the staff and all the other players to see them communicate outside the game.”
Martinez also talked about what he was hoping his club would take away from the outing, and what he wanted them to learn or appreciate about Clemente’s legacy?
“I think it’s important for them to learn the history and how far back — he was a Latin player back when things weren’t that good, and the battles that he had to fight — I think it’s important for them to understand that, and what it meant for him to play the game, and what it means to each individual now to represent and play the game. I got great feedback from our young guys, especially our Latin guys that went, they loved it, they enjoyed it, they couldn’t believe all the stuff that Roberto had done in short period of time in his life.”
Keeping Clemente’s memory, and story, alive is important to Martinez.
“I think it’s important because one — for us Latin players and coaches, he represent a lot more than just — like I said, the baseball part of it. He represents what we view as a person. People don’t realize, but this guy served time in the military too, so he was — for us growing up he was the guy. My dad always talks about him being, for Latin players, the baseball god of Latin players. So I think it’s important that we recognize that.”