In late July, as most Astros’ fans had one eye on their TV screen and the other on twitter, waiting to see Hunter Pence‘s fate be determined, we also saw a chain reaction of events develop. Not only did Bill Brown, on a TV broadcast, announce Pence’s trade to the Phillies had been finalized, we also heard who would be called up to replace Pence on the 25 man roster, J.D. Martinez. We had all heard of the kid and how he had destroyed minor league pitching staffs throughout his relatively short pro career. The question had begun to be raised whether a September promotion might be in order but everyone simply assumed it was as a reserve and the idea itself was far from a given. Seven months later, JD Martinez will be penciled in as the Astros’ everyday left fielder, now that’s a pretty big jump from playing the outfield at Whataburger Field in AA ball. He represents the final sit down interview we, the “Astros Network” had the opportunity to conduct at FanFest. I will say he was my favorite of the group, although all three were very good, and most fans will find him refreshingly unabridged.
Jayne from whattheheckbobby.com opened up the interview by asking who had influenced him throughout his minor league career. JD made sure to name most of his minor league hitting coaches, ending with Mike Barnett, the current Astros’ hitting coach. I’ll say this about the kid, he seemed legitimately grateful when speaking of individuals who helped him on the way to the big leagues. Martinez had a boyish smile when talking about his coaches, very refreshing, almost like he was remembering certain moments as he mentioned each coach.
Jose from myhoustonlife.com would be the next to fire a question at Martinez, asking him what he was looking forward to most about the upcoming season. All the new and young faces coming together and in some cases reuniting at the major league level seemed to excite JD the most. He is truly grateful to be able to share success in the big leagues with players and friends he came up through the minors with. I can imagine it creates a certain comfort level seeing someone who you’ve spent so much time together with standing next to you, having you’re back and fighting through the struggles together.
"I played with them, growing up, we’ve always been on each other’s team so we know each other and this is almost like us going to another level together."
David from crawfishboxes.com wanted to know how JD was handling the whirlwind that the last few seasons had brought and starting for a major league team this season. With a smile, JD honesty shined through. Martinez told a story about how he felt when he first got signed and how he was intimidated by minor league pitching but how he turned it around. He admitted that at one point, survival and incremental progress was his key but always with a bigger goal of making it to the big leagues. JD was pretty humble about the steps he had taken to reach his desired goal but one can imagine being a 20th round selection and not looked upon as a sure fire prospect might temper expectations.
"I think at the beginning my mindset was definitely not here, you know in the long run yeah I knew I wanted to make it but it was always a dream you know, you always put it on a pedestal, something you can never reach for but you’re always going to try to get it."
Deputy Jason was interested in JD’s training plan and his offseason intake to keep up physically.
Martinez made a point to note that he isn’t changing anything about his offseason routine from his minor league days, rather keep it constant. JD hopes to come into spring training at 230 lbs but eventually stick around 220 lbs as opening day approaches. JD also expresses the difficulty to do just that because of his metabolism and how it tears through calories quicker than others.
"Our biggest thing is just eating, putting food in, down me but its just so tough because you’re on one thing, you’re on another and then you don’t want to play on a full stomach. You know, for me I just have to even sometimes when I’m full I have force myself to keep eating."
Terri from talesfromthejuciebox.com asked the young left fielder what his goal will be in 2012 which would make the season a success. JD made it known that he didn’t believe in sophomore slumps but rather 2012 will be just another season. Mentally and physically, he will be prepared to produce and feels if both are ready to go then he is satisfied that he has kept up with his part of the bargain. JD seems very focused on getting his game ready for 2012, as any hitter would be, but if any of the young Astros’ hitters would seem to be immune from the dreaded sophomore slump, I believe it would be JD. He seems very poised and confident in his game plan and routine that has brought him to this level and won’t make a ton of changes to it.
I was up next and asked him about his batting stance. More than one Astros’ fan has wondered about his batting stance and how it developed. Having seen a guy kill the ball for a long time with an interesting stance before, it intrigued me to find out how or who influenced him. After a short smirk, he admitted that very question had been asked numerous times in the past but never by the media, mostly friends, and it was sort of just an evolution for him rather than imitation. He credited Paul Casanova and Jackie Hernandez as the most influential coaches growing up as a young player. He thanked God for guiding him into their teachings and explained the origins how his batting stance developed little by little. As he felt more comfortable, he leaned his bat more and more toward his back and once in college a curl developed and the process was in full swing. Adjustments have been a huge key for JD and regardless of goofyness, he’ll continue to go with what’s working.
David from thecrawfishboxes.com wanted to discuss playing left field in Minute Maid Park with the high scoreboard. Martinez gave full credit to Dave Clark as the one who worked to hammer into Martinez how to deal with certain bounces and what to expect when the ball hits certain parts of the wall. He admits how difficult it can be without proper practice and training along with the importance of how to take certain routes and angles. As much as fans kill Carlos Lee for his defense, and at times desire to play defense, this is a skill he has mastered. It will be interesting to see how JD handles the large scoreboard during his career.
"I think Dave Clark does a, you know, I give all my credit to him, of getting me prepared for the wall out there."
Jayne closed the interview with a question from one of her readers, what is JD’s favorite fan moment. JD remembers getting a card from a fan, which he posted on twitter. He mentions how his mom is the leader of the unofficial JD Martinez fan club and has him read through his fan mail. The little boy made an impression with Martinez, the handwritten letter was something special to him.
"My mom, she’s my…she likes to call herself my little…my fan club…the president of my fan club because she keeps everything and every time I get letters she comes with like lets go, you have to sign it."
Getting a chance to listen and see JD Martinez answer each question we presented him, let the group see how genuine he truly is. Certainly not saying that Brad Mills or Bud Norris didn’t give us genuine answers but they have been in the majors much longer and in some ways learned how to answer certain questions. Martinez being so green to the majors seemed to be more instinctive in his responses. How will he do this season, it’s hard to answer that question because he might have set many fans’ standards of him a bit unreasonable to achieve. He could surge and make himself a household name but odds are he will regress a bit, as most 2nd year players tend to do. That really isn’t the point for JD, in my opinion, as he seems to have the right approach on how to thrive not just survive and the tools to adjust to and get the better of big league pitchers.