Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin Jr., was born on Feb. 15, 1983, in East York, Ontario. Russell was given his first name after his father, Russell Martin Sr. Russell's middle name, Nathan, comes from his great-grandfather, while the name "Jeanson" is the maiden name of Russell's mother (Susanne Jeanson). And finally, Coltrane was a name given to Russell by his father as a tribute to John Coltrane, the renowned jazz saxophonist.
Russell's early years were spent with his mother growing up in Chelsea, Québec. Russell and his mother also lived in Paris from the age of 8-10. Russell's mother is a Caucasian French-Canadian singer, and his father is African-Canadian. Russell's parents separated when he was only 2 years old. "I don't really remember when my parents separated, and it's probably better that way because I know kids these days go through some tough times," says Martin. As Russell got older, he moved in with his father, who played the saxophone in Montréal subway stations to help pay for Russell's baseball training. It also enabled him to spend as much free time as possible with Russell.
There is nothing more important to Russell than family. Russell spends his offseasons back home in Montréal where he was raised while with his father. Russell's father still resides in Montréal. Recently, Russell asked his mother to retire and move to Montréal from Chelsea where she could further pursue her artistic talents. Russell Martin announced that for the 2009 season, the name printed on his jersey would be changed to "J. Martin" in reference to one of his middle names "Jeanson," in honor of his mother. Russell could not be more proud of his sister, Vivianne, who was recently accepted to study at the renowned École de Musique Vincent d'Indy in Montréal.
While growing up in the Montréal neighborhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Martin also played hockey for N.D.G Minor Hockey. He graduated from Polyvalente Édouard-Montpetit, the same high school attended by former teammate Eric Gagné. After graduating from high school, Martin took a junior college scholarship at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., to continue to develop his baseball skills and gain visibility in professional baseball.
Russell was selected by the Dodgers in the 17th round of the 2002 Draft and quickly passed on a scholarship to North Carolina State University. Russell received a signing bonus of $40,000 to begin his professional baseball career. Martin was originally a third baseman before switching to catcher after a scout saw him playing for the Gulf Coast Dodgers in Rookie ball and thought he showed more promise in that position. Martin was a Florida State League All-Star catcher while with the Vero Beach Dodgers in 2004. At the end of the 2004 season, Russell was asked to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In 2005, Russell was named to the Southern League All-Star Team while with the Jacksonville Suns. Russell began the 2006 season in Triple-A Las Vegas until May 5, when he was called up to the big leagues.
Martin's career as a Major League Baseball player began on May 5, 2006, when then-starting catcher and premier prospect Dioner Navarro suffered a wrist injury after being hit by a foul tip. Never believing he would be sent back to the Minor Leagues, Russell chose his jersey number (55) since that was the date (5/5) he was called up to the big leagues. On June 6, 2006, Martin and Gagné made baseball history by becoming the first French-Canadian battery in the Majors. On June 26, 2006, convinced of Russell's All-Star potential and abilities after just six short weeks in the big leagues, the Dodgers traded Navarro to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and cemented Martin's spot in the lineup. During Martin's five years in the Majors, the Dodgers made three postseasons, and Russell was named an All-Star in both of his first two full seasons in the Major Leagues. In an effort to quit the use of smokeless tobacco, Russell began wearing a custom-fitted mouthpiece during the 2009 World Baseball Classic and Spring Training.