There was a long wait for it, but Tuesday night was all about Pedro Martinez again at Fenway Park.
As the Red Sox retired No. 45 to the right field wall, Martinez reflected on all he had accomplished during his time in Boston as well as how he reached this point in his career.
It was all he could do, he said.
Prior to the game, the Sox held a ceremony for the recent Hall of Famer, bringing out former members of the team like Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek and others.
“All I could do was reflect when I saw everybody there,” Martinez said. “And seeing the franchise standing right there, all the players … reflect, reflect and reflect and maybe one of these days I will wake up and say, ‘Hey, my god, this just happened.’ But right now I’m like in a bubble, I’m flying around. I haven’t set my feet down yet.”
He also emphasized just how much all of his accolades have affected him, and how he’s still strapped for words when he thinks about how he was the one on the receiving end of them.
“It seems like destiny had me linked in a very different way to everything,” he said. “The Red Sox, the seasons, the championships, ’04, 86 years and then I’m part of the All-Century team for the Red Sox, and I see so many great players that passed by that couldn’t pull it off. I was part of the ones that pulled it off, and not only that, I’m the first pitcher that goes into that exclusive wall of numbers retired.
“It’s a unique opportunity to feel this, and I don’t know how to describe it. I get confused in the middle of trying to explain why, why me? How? And I’m trying to enjoy it as well, and I’m trying to have a great time and soaking up as much as I can, but I’m still floating from being in the Hall of Fame, from being in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Latino Hall of Fame, so many things that happened that I can only say I’m fortunate. I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent so many different things.”
Not surprisingly, he was met with thousands of cheers throughout the ceremony, creating an atmosphere that reminded the former pitcher of his days on the mound in Boston.
“Today I felt the same, the same little movement,” Martinez said. “The kids walking, and the cars parked a little further down, and the kids are rushing into the stadium, and the people are happy and they’re excited and they want to be out there.
“I love that, and that’s what makes Boston unique. Now when I was standing by the podium over there, I could hear someone, ‘I love you Pedro!’ and that’s the only stadium where you can probably be able to hear that and feel that kind of passion and love … it’s a unique feeling being here in Boston.”
Manager John Farrell said that one of the characteristics that defined Martinez’s starts at Fenway, aside from his sheer pitching ability, was the way people reacted to him. It created a different kind of day for those at the park. But inside of hurling the baseball, Martinez found ways to impress in a time when runs typically came in droves.
“The thing that stood out at the time was someone of his physical stature was capable of throwing the baseball and manipulating the baseball as he could,” Farrell said. “With the power that he had, you wonder, OK, a guy of his size, how long’s it going to last? It obviously lasted a long time with a heck of a lot of success. In an era that was dominated by offense, he was equally or more dominant on the other side, which makes his time here in Boston that much more special.”
While Martinez has been praised over and over for his numerical and statistical success as a player, he said he’d rather be remembered as a sign of hope as someone who “unexpectedly made it further than he ever dreamed” because he refused to give up and had no space for failure.
“Instead of greatness and achievement, I’ll take hope and faith and determination, hard work and dedication,” he said. “[So they say,] ‘There’s a symbol of dedication, there is a symbol of integrity, there is a symbol of hope, there is a sign of hope for everyone that’s coming out,’ and especially for me, to be born in the Dominican Republic with a shot and coming from a third world country that this sign of hope that I want to represent for those people is even bigger. That would make a lot more sense to me than the individual achievements.”
But when people look up at his number now at the park, all Martinez wants them to think about is having fun.
“The same way that number’s hanging, they’re hanging here …” he said. “I am fun. I am having fun, and I love to have them here, and I hope they have the same feeling when they see that number.
“‘Pedro, that’s Pedro! Oh, Pedro is always in the parade. Pedro’s always happy, Pedro’s always grateful. Pedro, you never know what Pedro’s going to be,’ so just go out there, have fun. Remember me for a fun guy, sign of hope, a sign of someone that was always happy and grateful.”