September 21, 2001:
In the 16th and final season of his major league career, Davey Martinez was playing for the Atlanta Braves (and hitting .302 on the year) when the club traveled to New York to play in the first MLB game played in the NY area following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 on September 21st of that year.
Heading into last night’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Martinez recounted his experience on 9/11, and talked about his memories of being a part of that game in Flushing, Queens, NY’s Shea Stadium.
“It was a sad day, it really was, and obviously we go back and I was part of that first game back in New York, the place where I grew up,” the Brooklyn, NY-born, Manhattan-raised, now-56-year-old manager said, “... and it was tough, it was tough playing that day. I can remember — we were talking earlier about it — we had the slogan back then, we had all these t-shirts made about, ‘United we stand.’ I mean, that was — and we’re going to get through this together, everybody, and we’re going to stay strong.
“And that’s the thing that I remember most about that game. Is how everybody was pulling for everybody.”
Pulling for one another to the point that Martinez said he was pulling for the ball to get out of the yard when Mike Piazza hit his iconic, two-run home run in the eighth to put the Mets up, 3-2 in what ended up a one-run win for the home team.
"The thing that I remember most about that game is how everybody was pulling for everybody."— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 11, 2021
- Davey Martinez on playing in the first game in NY after September 11, 2001 pic.twitter.com/wYvLCNfkth
“Honestly, for me it wasn’t about winning or losing the game, it was — when [Piazza] hit the ball, I can honestly tell you that I was like — inside I was like, inside, saying, ‘Go, go, go.’ You want to see the ball go out of the stadium.
“On one hand I know I don’t like losing games, but that was one game where it didn’t really matter. And just to watch the eruption of the fans and everybody in the stadium ... it was really awesome.”
Ring That Bell:
“Specifically right-handed I think that was the best ball that I’ve hit,” Josh Bell said of his 26th home run of the season, which he sent 429 ft. to center field in PNC Park in Friday night’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Especially here,” Bell added, of the blast in his former home, “... so kudos to [Hitting Coach] Kevin Long for all the work that we’ve been putting in in the cage and it’s nice to finally see that right-handed.”
“He stayed through that ball really, really well,” Davey Martinez said before the 2nd of 3 with the Pirates on Saturday. “As you know he hit it hard. It was a great swing. For me, I’ve seen him right-handed hit some balls a very long way. I’ve seen him hit balls to right-center field, homers, but the fact of that swing was that he was on time, and like I said, he got extended really well, and stayed through the ball really, really well.”
Bell talked on Friday night about the work he’s done with Long all season, and a good work day leading into the opener with the Pirates being behind the results he had Friday night, and has had all season long, or at least since turning things around after a rough first month in his first campaign with the Nationals following the trade from the Bucs in December 2020.
“No, it goes to show you that you’re always learning something in this game,” Bell’s manager said. “Even as successful as he’s been in the past, they tweaked some things mechanically, and he’s getting to the balls a lot better, especially right-handed. So he learned a lot, and I’m glad that he was open to the suggestions, and he ran with it, and you can see the kind of numbers he’s putting up.”
Spa Day For Davey:
Davey Martinez told Freddie Freeman earlier this week he did not call for Nationals’ starter Sean Nolin to hit the Braves’ slugger in retaliation for what seemed to be a purpose-pitch from Will Smith to Juan Soto the previous night, but MLB suspended the Nats’ skipper and Nolin before Friday’s series opener with the Pirates, and both of them decided to start serving their respective suspensions (5 games for Nolin, 1 for Martinez) right away. So the skipper got a night off. How did he spend it?
“I had a spa day,” Martinez joked. “No, just kidding. I sat in my room, bored off my mind by the way.”
It did give him a different perspective on the unique, funky, swaying delivery that lefty Josh Rogers adopted this season, in Rogers’ second start with the big league club after signing with the club on a minor league deal after the Baltimore Orioles released him in June. What did Martinez see watching on TV?
“I think, hey, you know what, as long as he continues to throw strikes and pounds the strike zone, he’s going to be fine,” Martinez said, after Rogers went 6 2⁄3 IP, giving up two runs on eight hits.
“I talked to him about it, and I actually talked to him a lot about a pitcher that’s pitched a lot in our league and kind of got a little funky and a little deception in his own right, but gets outs, and that’s Rich Hill. I told him, I said, there’s no reason why you can’t pitch in the big leagues for a while. The key about Rich, is, one, he attacks the strike zone, he utilizes all his pitches, and he knows how to pitch. He throws the ball up when he has to, keeps the ball down and away when he has to, and I said that’s something you can do very easily with your stuff and your deception.”
We also wanted to know why the umpires made Rogers switch out his gray glove (which did match the Nationals’ uniforms) before the start of his first inning of work Friday night, so we asked the Nats’ skipper.
“I guess it’s a rule that you have,” Martinez sort-of explained, “I guess it does something — they think it does something to the ball, a distraction to the hitter. I’m glad that Josh made it no big deal, he just went out and just did his thing and he pitched well.”