Martinez excited to mold young Miami hitters
In right place at right time, new Marlins hitting coach up for challenge
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tino Martinez heard several job offers from Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria over the past few years, and a few more from elsewhere around the Majors, before finally deciding now was the right time and Miami was the right place.
Martinez was named Miami's hitting coach in November, and despite the Marlins' complete roster rebuild and modest expectation in 2013, Martinez expressed a great deal of excitement about his first full-time Major League coaching job.
"The whole idea coming in beforehand, [Loria] was going to go young, get rid of everybody and go young and totally rebuild, and wanted us to help rebuild the team," said Martinez, speaking at the launch party for the 10th Annual Derek Jeter Golf Classic at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. "And I thought, for me, as a first-year coach, it was a great situation to come into, to work with young players.
"Not just hitting, but teaching them the whole game, how to be a professional day in, day out, how to approach the game and all that -- we could really affect their careers early on right now."
In addition to turning down Loria's offers "two or three different times" over the past five years, Martinez also passed on a chance to coach for the Red Sox. Martinez considered the job when Boston manager John Farrell called about it, even as odd as it would have been for the former Yankees great to put on a Red Sox uniform.
"Yes, I could've. ... That was a great opportunity as well," said Martinez, who previously worked as a Yankees special assistant and as an analyst for the YES Network. "I considered it, but in the end, I thought the opportunity to work with this young team in Miami, close to home here in Tampa with my family, everything just seemed right about it. So I'm excited I took it."
That's not to say this will be an easy task for the four-time World Series champion. The Marlins were one of the National League's worst offensive clubs in 2012, and that was before shipping out Jose Reyes and most of their other star players. Miami is left with just one dominant hitter in Giancarlo Stanton, and he's been the subject of every imaginable trade rumor since the Marlins' big blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays.
The Marlins scored 609 runs last season, ahead of only the Astros among NL teams, and batted just .244, which ranked 13th out of 16 NL clubs. They hit only .234 with runners in scoring position, another area Martinez will look to improve when he begins working with his young roster in Spring Training.
"Being a hitting coach is tough, but you've got these young guys. Half our team is going to be first- or second-year players, so we have an opportunity to teach them," said Martinez, a .271 hitter who hit 339 home runs in his 16-year career. "Hopefully they'll listen because they want to stay there and have a long career. That's a great opportunity for me to try to affect them in a really positive way early on in their careers."
This could turn out to be just the early part of Martinez's coaching career as well. The 45-year-old wouldn't rule out the possibility of trying to become a Major League manager someday, though he made it clear his focus is now with the young hitters he'll be instructing in Miami this year.
"We'll see. I'll do this job this year," Martinez said. "Eventually, I think I would, but I want to make sure it's right. I'll take this year and see how it goes -- two years, for sure -- and then try to go from there."