The doorstep of Arlington High School to the gates of Globe Life Park covers a distance of a little less than four miles.
Chris Martin’s journey between those two destinations took countless additional detours.
That expansive journey took Martin from McLennan Community College to the independent Grand Prairie Air Hogs to a stint with the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japanese Baseball League. He endured a serious arm injury, a failed tryout with the independent Fort Worth Cats, and even a three-year stint out of baseball where he worked a variety of “real-life” jobs.
A trek like that will make one appreciate their landing spot even more. Today, Martin has a firm hold on a major league job, as he has put together a splendid season as the Texas Rangers’ setup man.
“It has been a blur, a whirlwind for sure, going through what I have gone through,” Martin told MLB.com upon signing with the Rangers in December 2017. “It is definitely a humbling experience … a huge part of my drive to push myself to get where I am today.”
Martin could always hum it. The 6-foot-8 right-hander excelled at Arlington High, blowing away most high school batters with ease. The Detroit Tigers thought enough of his potential that they selected him in the 18th round of the 2004 MLB Draft.
Instead, Martin passed on pro ball and enrolled at MCC. After his freshman year with the Highlanders, the Colorado Rockies nabbed him in the 21st round of the 2005 draft. Still, Martin stuck at MCC. He imagined a grander future.
His plans derailed, however, when he injured his shoulder in his second year at MCC. Even after surgery to repair his torn labrum, he battled chronic pain. He couldn’t throw from the mound to first base without his shoulder hurting.
So, Martin walked away from the game. For three years, he did grunt work. He worked in the garden department at Lowe’s. He loaded trailers for UPS. He drove trucks for an appliance store. The physical labor apparently helped strengthen his shoulder, because when he picked up a baseball again in 2010, the old crackle of his fastball had returned.
Better yet, the pain had vanished.
Martin ended up signing with the AirHogs for $800 a month. The next year the Boston Red Sox offered him a minor league contract. Two years later, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies, where he made his big-league debut in 2014. Two years after that, he was sent to the New York Yankees, where he spent another season before embarking for Japan.
“Obviously it was a culture shock at first,” Martin told WVNY-TV last year. “You had to learn how the Japanese guys played a different style of baseball — small ball. It’s a little frustrating at times, but if you just give in and buy in to what they’re trying to do over there, they welcome you. It ended up being a good experience.”
In Japan, Martin tallied a 1.12 ERA over two seasons. Such success helped him land a deal with his hometown Rangers, which he called “a dream come true” upon signing.
When you finally catch that dream, you don’t want to let go. For the Rangers, Martin has pitched like he belonged in the bigs all along. This season, the 33-year-old has allowed only 31 hits to the 135 batters he has faced. He owns a 3.06 ERA and a sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12.3 to 1.
In the Rangers’ series opener against the Houston Astros Thursday, Martin put the finishing touches on a 5-0 shutout win for Texas. He tossed a scoreless ninth, uncorking a ludicrous slider to strike out Josh Reddick.
It sure beats delivering a refrigerator.
Former Highlander signs with independent team
Reece Calvert has a new professional home.
Calvert, who pitched at MCC in the 2015 and ‘16 seasons, signed with the Florence (Kent.) Freedom earlier this month. The Freedom is an independent minor league team that plays in the well-established Frontier League.
Calvert made his pro debut in a start against the Lake Erie Crushers on July 5. The 6-foot-5 right-hander worked five innings, giving up five hits and three runs while striking out five and walking none in a 5-4 Florence loss.
Calvert was 20-6 in two seasons with the Highlanders, helping MCC reach the 2015 Junior College World Series. After MCC, he pitched one year at Ohio State and another at Western Kentucky.
‘Biss’ beginning to percolate
It wouldn’t surprise any Baylor baseball fans, but it looks like the Pittsburgh Pirates found a late-round bargain in Josh Bissonette.
The former BU second baseman has shown a lively bat in his rookie pro season with the Bristol (Pa.) Pirates, Pittsburgh’s advanced A affiliate in the Appalachian League. Entering Saturday’s games, Bissonette was hitting .306 with seven RBIs in his past 10 games.
He was a 31st-round pick of the Pirates in June.
Known mostly for his slick defense at Baylor, Bissonette packed his glove with him on the trip to Bristol, too. He has played errorless ball at second in his first 15 games and has helped turn six double plays.
Watching from the dugout
Several Central Texas-bred pro players are biding their time on the injured list.
Former MCC star Josh Breaux hit the DL on May 23, cutting short a promising second season in the pros. Breaux had hits in his final six games before going on the shelf. The catcher for the Charleston RiverDogs of the New York Yankees’ organization sports a .295 average with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 30 games in 2019.
Former Robinson standout Zacrey Law went on the injured list on April 25 with a back injury. Law is currently with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the advanced A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Law was hitting .149 in 15 games this season before being sidelined.
Logan Verrett pitched seven games for the Midland RockHounds this year before making a trip to the injured list on May 16. The former Baylor pitcher is looking to get back to the big leagues, and had a 1-0 record with a 3.93 ERA at the time of his injury. Midland is the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s.
CENTRAL TEXAS PRO BASEBALL STATISTICS
|Braxton Ashcraft||Robinson||West Virginia (Pitt.)||A||0-4||6.35||22.2||15||8|
|Nate Bertness||MCC||Inland Empire (LAA)||A+||2-2||6.69||35||45||17|
|Jason Blanchard||MCC||Tri-City (SD)||A||0-2||22.85||4.1||6||6|
|Daniel Castano||Baylor||Jacksonville (Mia.)||AA||1-3||4.28||61||53||15|
|Kyle Hill||Baylor||West Virginia (Sea.)||A||1-0||7.20||10||10||3|
|Matt Kent||Midway||Portland (Bos.)||AA||4-6||4.63||95.1||50||33|
|Brad Kuntz||Baylor||San Antonio (Mil.)||AAA||0-2||20.25||4||2||5|
|Ryan Merritt||MCC||Durham (TB)||AAA||3-4||6.79||58.1||50||18|
|Logan Ondrusek||MCC||Fresno (Wash.)||AAA||3-3||8.41||40.2||34||15|
|Alex Phillips||Baylor||Pensacola (Minn.)||AA||3-3||1.79||45.1||51||17|
|West Tunnell||Baylor||Visalia (Ariz.)||A+||0-0||1.37||26.1||41||16|
|#Logan Verrett||Baylor||Midland (Tex.)||AA||1-0||3.93||34.1||33||4|
|Tyler Watson||MCC||Kannapolis (CHW)||A||0-1||9.88||13.2||13||7|
|Aaron Wilkerson||Midway||San Antonio (Mil.)||AAA||6-1||2.67||60.2||61||24|
|Josh Bissonette||Baylor||Bristol (Pitt.)||RK+||.245||5||0||8||3|
|#Josh Breaux||MCC||Charleston (NYY)||A||.295||12||7||30||0|
|Kameron Esthay||Baylor||River City||Ind.||.262||32||5||36||2|
|*Brandon Grudzielanek||MCC||New Hampshire (Tor.)||AA||.156||5||0||1||0|
|Shea Langeliers||Baylor||Rome (Atl.)||A||.180||8||1||10||0|
|#Zac Law||Robinson||Charlotte (TB)||A+||.154||4||0||3||1|
|Nic Motley||MCC||Boise (Col.)||A||.200||5||1||4||0|
|Max Muncy||Baylor||L.A. Dodgers||MLB||.266||56||22||60||3|
|Nate Orf||Baylor||San Antonio (Mil.)||AAA||.277||51||7||28||8|
|Kramer Robertson||Midway||Memphis (StL.)||AAA||.257||52||10||44||7|
|Chris Roller||MCC||Great Lakes (LAD)||A||.280||35||5||22||5|
|Brendan Venter||MCC||Rome (Atl)||A||.157||13||3||17||0|