Roberto Clemente Day - The baseball god of Latin players:
Davey Martinez led a number of his players on a trip to the Clemente Museum while the club was in Pittsburgh this past weekend, and yesterday was Roberto Clemente Day for Major League Baseball, so the fourth-year skipper in the nation’s capital got to wear the number Clemente wore for most of his major league career (No. 21) on his own 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 on Wednesday morning. “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 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.
“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 together 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.”
What was he hoping for them to take away from the trip? Or what did he want 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.”
Big Days Off:
Davey Martinez gave Carter Kieboom a day off in Sunday’s series finale in PNC Park, and in the third of three with Miami in D.C. on Wednesday, it was Luis García getting a rest after a nice run by the 21-year-old infielder, who had hits in 9 of 13 games going into the matchup with the Marlins in Nationals Park yesterday, going 14 for 50 (.280/.294/.560) with six of his 13 doubles on the year and two of his five home runs over that stretch.
“He’s fine,” Martinez said when asked about García’s absence when the lineup was released.
“I wanted to give him a day off. So he’ll get a day off today. I gave Carter a day off on Sunday, it was just part of it — I planned it for a while.
“But yeah, [García] been playing really well, and I just wanted to give him today off, he’ll have tomorrow off and then he’ll come back and hopefully finish the season off strong.”
Kieboom and García have been getting a lot of starts and big league at-bats since the trade deadline fire sale that kicked off a reboot in the nation’s capital, and their skipper said the young infielders really have handled themselves well, with mixed results at times, but hard work throughout the process.
“They’ve done well,” the manager said. “The biggest thing is — that we talk about with them — is their routine, and I’m constantly on them about sticking to their routine every day.
“We got some great strength guys who have actually pushed them a little bit to make sure they’ve been doing their routine every day, and they’ve been really good.
“We talk a lot about Luis, for example, on getting his feet quicker, and he does all this agility stuff before he goes out every day and you notice he’s getting a lot better, but I want them to continue this, not when they’re around here, but this winter. They really need to stick with their routine. Some need to get a little bit stronger, a little bit quicker, but this is a good starting point for them, and they’ve been — like I said — they’ve been really, really good about doing it every single day.”
Fans’ Guide to the Rest of September:
Speaking of the young players who are getting regular starts and at-bats, Davey Martinez said that fans who are used to seeing meaningful games in September can take solace in the fact that they’re getting to watch the next wave of players in the organization over the next few weeks.
“They’re getting a chance to see some of our really young players play every day,” Martinez said.
“I know some days are better than others, but they get to see — look, what I can say is what I always say, it’s not going to be long before we’re really good again. I really believe that.
“We still got a lot of young players, young prospects that [fans] haven’t seen yet that are well on their way.
“Obviously this winter we’re going to sit back and reevaluate everything, but I will say this, I know from ownership, from [GM] Mike [Rizzo], myself, we don’t like losing and we want to win, so we’re going to bang our heads together this winter and make sure that we put a 26-man roster together next year that’s going to be able to compete to win our division again and go further in the playoffs, so that’s our goal.”