Edgar Martinez, one of the greatest players to ever don a Seattle Mariners uniform, called a news conference Monday afternoon at Safeco Field to announce his retirement from the game of baseball effective at the end of the season.
The news means the end of the 2004 season will also mark the end of an era in Seattle sports. Martinez, 41, has spent all 18 years of his major league career with the Mariners, and helped shift the Seattle sports community away from its love for football to a new-found fondness for spring nights at the ballpark.
Known simply as “Edgar,” Martinez became a fixture not just in the heart of the Mariners lineup, but in the community as well. His connection with the fans is one of the main things he’ll miss.
“I’d like to thank all the fans in the Northwest,” Martinez said. “They’ve been great fans to me. They welcomed me to this area.”
Martinez said the fans were one of several reasons he never left the Mariners, even after the big names before him like Johnson, Griffey and Rodriguez did.
“I enjoyed playing here,” said the long-time designated hitter. “I always felt at home here. The fans were great. My wife is from here. Many factors were in place already, and it just felt like the perfect place for me.”
Martinez was batting .258 with eight home runs and 46 RBI heading into Monday’s off day, and will now have seven weeks left to savor what’s left of what very well could be a Hall of Fame career.
“This is a difficult moment for me, but it’s also an exciting moment for me,” said Martinez. “I’m looking forward for the future and a new chapter in my life. I hope that the Mariners will bring a World Series to this city.
“As a player, my mind and heart wanted to play but my body is saying something different. It is a hard decision. Sometimes you want to play but your body won’t allow you to.”
There was some thought that Martinez might retire after last season, when he batted an impressive .294 with 24 homers and 98 RBI, but he quickly ended that talk by signing an incentive-laden one-year deal worth $3 million.
Few could have projected the nightmarish manner in which the season would play out, especially since the Mariners appeared to be playing well in the spring. Since then, it’s been all downhill for Martinez and the Mariners, and the team has elected to go with the youth movement.
That’s meant more at bats for the power-hitting Bucky Jacobsen, and more time on the pine for arguably the best right-handed hitter in the 1990s.
“We had a lot of expectations out of spring training, and everything looked great,” said Martinez. “Everything has gone in a different direction, so it’s been hard. It’s been hard for me and everyone in that clubhouse. That’s baseball, and you sometimes have to go through that.”
Trying to focus on the positives, Martinez continued.
“It’s been great through the years,” he said. “We had some great runs for many years in a row. I never thought that’d happen. I never saw that coming.
“I’m looking forward to (the rest of the season). I’m going to try to enjoy everything more - the teammates and the coaches and the moments - now that I know it’s going to be my last year.”
Martinez will leave the game with quite an impressive resume, including two batting titles (.343 in 1992 and .356 in 1995) and seven All-Star appearances. He’s also led the league in doubles twice (46 in 1992 and 51 in 1995), runs once (121 in 1995) and RBI once (145 in 2000).
“Baseball is a game but it’s also been a big part of my life,” said Martinez. “Baseball has this magic that you just feel and it’s going to be sad to leave.”
Next stop... Cooperstown?