Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964, to parents of Puerto Rican ancestry, current Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez grew up in Manhattan, and in 1973, he and his father went to East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, for the future major league outfielder and manager’s first Major League Baseball game.
“It’s the first place I ever watched a major league game,” Martinez said before the start of this weekend’s three-game set with the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium.
“I was nine years old. I came to see what was one of my favorite players, Reggie Jackson, my dad brought me, and I got to really go down there and see him up close, so that was always something that I always remember, coming to Yankee Stadium.
“We didn’t go to very many games, but going to that first game in Yankee Stadium always was on my mind.”
Jackson was still with the Oakland A’s at that point, on his way to a .293/.383/.531 season that year, in which he hit 32 home runs, scored 99 runs, and drove in 117 in 151 games.
In addition to getting to see his favorite player, Martinez came away with souvenirs.
“I had some balls signed, yeah. Ron Guidry signed a baseball for me, which was pretty cool. Because I used to pitch and that’s who I liked emulating a lot was Ron Guidry.”
Guidry didn’t debut in the majors until 1975, so maybe that was on another trip, or memory might be a little fuzzy, since Martinez was just 9-to-11 at the point in time.
But either way, the skipper’s story about his first trip to Yankee Stadium was a good one.
Kyle Schwarber, (who learned the nuances of playing in the outfield from Martinez when the two of them were both with the Chicago Cubs, where Martinez was the bench coach before becoming the Nationals’ manager), hadn’t played in Yankee Stadium in his big league career heading into this weekend’s series, and the 28-year-old, seven-year veteran said he was real excited to do so for the first time.
“Haven’t had the chance to be at Yankee Stadium. And I’m excited to see another ballpark that’s got — I know it’s decently new, but there’s still history inside it and to be able to see that, and go out there and everyone wants to see the short porch in right, short porch in left, it’s just still staying within your approach here and not thinking big and staying with the line drives and going from there.”
Schwarber walked in his first plate appearance in the House that George Built, and scored on a two-run shot by Yan Gomes. He finished his first game in Yankee Stadium 1 for 4 with one walk.