April 12th, 2024

Buck Stops Here: Broadcaster Martinez roams complex at Jays camp, soaking up info

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on March 6, 2024.

Toronto Blue Jays colour commentator Buck Martinez watches batting practice during spring training action in Dunedin, Fla. on Friday, February 23, 2024. With trusty black notebook and pen in hand, Martinez covers a wide expanse at the Toronto Blue Jays' player development complex during spring training. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

With trusty black notebook and pen in hand, Buck Martinez covers a wide expanse at the Toronto Blue Jays’ player development complex during spring training in Dunedin, Fla.

Sometimes the veteran broadcaster watches batting practice from the visiting dugout bench. An up-close perch from behind the bullpen fence is ideal for observing pitchers.

Martinez will also walk the paths of the sprawling facility to visit practice fields and gather tidbits of information. Once he secures a nugget, he scribbles a few lines for future use.

“I find if that I write them down, I’ve got a tendency to remember them,” he said, raising his notebook in the air. “I’ve got stacks of these things.”

Martinez, now 75, enters the team locker-room with the slow stride of a knowing veteran.

He had a 17-year playing career in the big leagues, largely as a backup catcher. The Redding, Calif., native spent his last six seasons with the Blue Jays and managed the team for 215 games in 2001 and ’02.

At camp, he’ll check in with major- and minor-leaguers alike as players share stories and update him with recent developments. Pitching, catching and deep-dive baseball chatter are the norm.

“I’m around the best players in the world and it keeps my mind going,” he said. “I feel like I’m young. I don’t feel my age.”

Martinez, who calls games on Sportsnet with Dan Shulman, has spent over four decades in the broadcast booth. He plans to work about 100 regular-season Blue Jays games this season in his 15th year with the network.

He’s also on the mic for a handful of pre-season games this month. But the notebooks start getting filled in mid-February.

“It’s really interesting,” Martinez said. “I’m talking to the pitchers (in) the locker-room and they’re just like, ‘This is what I’m doing and this is why I do it.’

“I have thoughts about what I see during the course of a game and then I can question a guy about it and understand where he’s coming from and what he’s doing.”

Martinez called it the “best time of the year” as he soaks up all the information he can. He keeps an eye on the big names but also connects with prospects like Alan Roden, Andrew Bash and Adam Macko of Stony Plain, Alta.

The interaction between established major-leaguers and young talent is an intriguing dynamic for the longtime baseball man.

“This is what really interests me,” Martinez said. “When you see (Kevin) Gausman talking to Macko. They’re all on the same level. I talked to Bash about that and he said, ‘Everybody treats us equal.’ That wasn’t always the case. When I got to the big leagues as a rookie, they wouldn’t let me hit during batting practice.

“They were like, ‘You’re not going to play, you can’t hit.’ So it’s changed a lot. I give credit to the (Chris) Bassitts and the Gausmans and the Jordan Romanos. They’re anxious to share their time with these kids. It’s only going to help the process of development.”

Martinez will often listen in at the back of the media scrum during availabilities with manager John Schneider and the players. Sometimes he’ll jot something down in his notebook for potential use on a future broadcast.

When scribes wait around the interview area, the former skipper will sometimes hold court.

Martinez will regale those around him with old stories and sometimes sprinkle in tidbits – often loaded with specific detail – from his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport.

It all stems from his passion for baseball but also his learning process. Martinez has always tried to remember as much as he could and then write things down if necessary.

“As a catcher, you had to know all the guys,” he said. “We didn’t have scouting reports. You had to know it yourself and that’s where the books started.

“(Former union officials) Gene Orza and Marvin Miller always used to tease me at our player rep meetings. They’d say, ‘Buck, can we look at your notes?’

“So it’s been something I’ve done my whole life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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