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Martinez takes long road to draft, signs with D-backs

By - Jul 19, 2017

By Bianca Barajas/for The Sporting Nation


The Arizona Diamondbacks chose Oklahoma Sooners and former Compton Tartars catcher Renae Martinez in the 33rd round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft. He agreed to terms with the club last month and has started his pro career.

The 23-year-old started as a little leaguer where his father Armando Martinez coached him up to high school. 

The draftee humbly took this experience and gave it all he could to make it worth his while and achieve all he has ever dreamed of, in becoming the player he is today. His father played a major role in guiding him to reach his goals from a little leaguer to becoming apart of a major league baseball team.

“He's been my rock through the whole journey,” said Martinez of his dad. “He has been there for me through all the ups and downs. If I ever lacked confidence, he always put it right back in me. He would help me out with whatever I was struggling in, if I was struggling with my hitting, during the offseason I would go home and he would throw me batting practice and help me figure things out.”

Armando Martinez was extremely excited, screaming for joy as his son’s name was called out in the 2017 MLB Draft. 

“I used to take him and his brothers to the field when they were little until college almost everyday to throw batting practice to them,” Armando Martinez said. “Even on holidays we found time to go to the field and play catch and hit… Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, it didn't matter… Ever since he was small he's always known how to work hard. Hard work is what got him where he is now.”

Martinez was a three-year varsity player at San Pedro High School and experienced the California prep  finals as a sophomore and won the Marine League as a senior. 

Martinez was committed to University of California-Irvine right before his senior year of high school and was voted as Marine League Most Outstanding Player, first team Marine League, All-City CIF, and voted first team by the local paper, the Daily Breeze. 

In 2013, Martinez continued his journey at UCI, he redshirted his freshman year but as his second year rolled by, he had the experience of a lifetime.

In 2014, the Anteaters had made it to the College World Series. Although Martinez did not get much playing time his second year, the World Series experience was “unreal.” Martinez moved around from backup catcher to pinch hitting,  with a couple of spot starts and also played as a designated hitter a couple of games. 

UCI was one of the last teams to qualify into the national tournament where they faced one of the top teams in the nation, Oregon State University. The underdog Anteaters were unstoppable and defeated the Beavers twice, allowing them to play in the Super Regionals where they also defeated Oklahoma State for a berth in the College World Series. 

“Went on to the World Series and played the first game of the World Series against Texas with 36,000 fans there and beat them,” said Martinez.

Martinez decided to cut his UCI baseball career short so he would no longer be a backup when plans of the MLB draft fell through for the starting catcher at the time. That was when Martinez stepped down from a Division I university and chose Compton Community College to build his baseball legacy in 2015. 

Despite Compton’s uneasy reputation, Martinez was no stranger to Compton and grew up playing at the Urban Youth Academy which is alongside Compton Community College.

“I decided to go to Compton because I grew up playing at the Urban Youth Academy… I believed I could use all the resources there to my advantage,” said Martinez.  

“The transition from a Division I to a junior college was a little tough at first… From being a Division I athlete you kind of get stuff handed to you easier and at a junior college, you have to work extra hard to get what you want,” said Martinez. 

Head baseball coach Shannon Williams expected a player with lots of experience and leadership since Martinez had just played in the College World Series.

“He had a plan from day one to be one of the best catchers in the state and and ultimately earn a scholarship back to a Division I program… he was very coachable and was willing to make adjustments for the team," Williams said. "All his teammates trusted him to make winning plays both physically and mentally." 

Not only did Martinez excel as an elite athlete, named 2015 All-South Coast Conference First Team for the Compton Tartars, but he earned a spot back to a Division I program at the University of Oklahoma.

“His story and legacy will be told for years to come because he proved that you can come from a top Division I program and come to Compton and be successful,” said Williams.

“My experience at Compton was great, loved my coaches and teammates," Martinez said. "Coach Shannon Williams played a huge role in getting me to Oklahoma. Love that guy.” 

The catcher had other offers on the table which consisted of New Mexico State University and University of California-Santa Barbara. 

“I chose Oklahoma because their head coach seemed extremely emotionally invested in his players and that was something I was looking for,” said Martinez. “My Oklahoma experience was amazing, especially my senior year. It was a culture change for sure and was something I had to adjust to. Loved my head coach because he was super emotionally invested in me and wanted me to be the best person I could possibly be, on and off the field.”

In 2016, Martinez’s first season at Oklahoma did not go as well as he hoped and he was beat out by a freshman halfway through the year. With hard work and dedication, the catcher ended up getting his spot back towards the end of the year and prepared himself for the next year coming to be the best that he could. 

“My second year I went in there with a chip on my shoulder and wanted to be a leader on the field… Except I wanted to be a leader by example so I did everything I could to perform well and I did,” said Martinez.

The catcher’s senior year, he earned Big 12 Player of the Week and was awarded All-Big 12 second team.

In June, the Diamondbacks drafted him. The whole experience was “crazy” to him as he got calls in the top 10 rounds and then the 10th through 20th rounds, with teams claiming they were going to take him but never did. 

“I ended up going 33rd round but I am so grateful that I got drafted,” said Martinez.  “It's been something that I've been dreaming of my whole life and it was hard to believe that it actually happened. Every road that I took in my past was worth it because it all led to where I am now.”

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