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07/15/09 12:59 AM ET
Classic all about fun for Tribe's Martinez
Sharing game, trip with family adds to experience
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The older he gets, the more Victor Martinez appreciates the All-Star Game.
Not Victor Martinez, the Indians' catcher. He's long understood what the honor of participating in the Midsummer Classic is all about.
The subject here is his son, Victor Jose, who, at the ripe old age of 4, has been front and center at two All-Star Games now.
When Martinez strolled into the American League clubhouse before Tuesday's game, little Victor was right by his side.
"He was pretty excited about the Home Run Derby," the elder Martinez said. "And he was pretty excited about the intro [Tuesday]."
As the All-Stars were introduced, little Victor was in his dad's arms. He flashed a peace sign for the camera.
Before the game, when asked who his favorite player among the All-Stars is, little Victor didn't hesitate.
"Yo quiero mi papa!" he said.
Little Victor's papa made it into the AL's 4-3 victory as a defensive substitution in the bottom of the sixth, as he took over the catching duties from AL starter Joe Mauer. In his lone plate appearance in the eighth, he was intentionally walked by the Padres' Heath Bell.
"That's the last thing you think is going to happen, getting intentionally walked in your only at-bat," Martinez said with a laugh. "That's OK, though. I had fun."
Martinez's greatest contribution to the game came behind the plate. He caught the scoreless innings tossed by Felix Hernandez, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera.
And Martinez made the call in perhaps the game's pivotal moment. The NL had two on with two out and Ryan Howard at the plate, with the AL holding onto its eighth-inning lead for dear life. Nathan was on the mound.
"I worked with him before, in 2004 [at the All-Star Game in Houston]," Martinez said of Nathan. "And I face him all the time, so it wasn't that hard."
It was, however, entertaining. Howard worked the count to 2-2, and Martinez called for a slider. Nathan threw one at Howard's heels, and the slugger went down swinging for a pivotal third out.
Nathan said he likes working with Martinez.
"It's always much better throwing to him," Nathan said. "He's such a dangerous hitter. And he's gotten me a couple times late in the game."
The 30-year-old Martinez enjoyed his third All-Star experience, because it afforded him the ability to spend some quality time with a group of about a dozen family members who made the trip to St. Louis with him.
"I've got a lot of people here," he said with a smile.
Martinez has been smiling for much of the last two days. He seems to be enjoying this pressure-free environment where he's free from the burdens of last place and the recent troubles he's had at the plate. The break, it seems, has been good for him in that regard.
"This game is just about having fun," he said. "It's something you look forward to. I'm enjoying every moment, because you don't know when you're going to come back again. So you have to enjoy it every time."
Like many other All-Stars, Martinez was impressed with the St. Louis showing. The fans here really rolled out the red carpet for the Midsummer Classic.
"It's been really, really good," Martinez said. "It looks awesome to play for them. The fans here are great."
Martinez turned down the opportunity to participate in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby, but he and little Victor took it in from foul territory at Busch Stadium.
Watching the Derby unfold had Martinez thinking that he could see himself taking part in the event someday.
"If I got a chance again," he said, "I might do it."
Martinez hopes to be back at the Midsummer Classic regularly in his career. But just in case, he's made sure to grab every souvenir he can to pass down to his son when he gets older. Little Victor sat at his dad's locker before Tuesday's game, holding the placard that had hung above the locker, bearing his daddy's name.
"We got some stuff," Martinez said, "so I can show it to him when he gets older."