Sitting at his parents’ house near Tampa late Monday night, the Florida shortstop’s phone did not stop vibrating and ringing. Texts and phone calls from friends and family members continued to blow up his phone, and once Oakland general manager Billy Beane called him when the Athletics were on the clock, Martin missed the phone call.
Beane left a voicemail for Martin, who said he wouldn’t be deleting that voicemail for a while, and the pick was still made. Most MLB Draft experts projected Martin in the 30s on Monday night, but Oakland took him at No. 20 overall.
“I couldn't (answer) because my phone was getting all these texts and calls and nothing was coming through,” Richie Martin said with a grin. “I actually missed the call and had to call him back. He left a voicemail and it was pretty cool getting a voicemail from him and then having to call him back.
"It was an awesome feeling. I'm still kind of lost for words. It's a long process, but at the end it all pays off and that feels great."
The calls didn’t stop then. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan called minutes after the pick was made to congratulate his three-year starter at shortstop.
“I was pumped,” O’Sullivan said. “Very excited for him, I think the A’s made a great pick. I think his best days are ahead of him. Like I’ve said, he’s still only 20 years old. He’s as good a defensive shortstop as I’ve ever coached. I think once he grows into his body a little bit more, gets a little bit more mature with his body, I think he has a chance to play for a long, long time.”
The Athletics loved the total package that Martin presented. His calling card this year has been defensively, where he shows above average range and has the arm to make all the throws. After making 21 errors last season and struggling to make the routine plays, Martin has made just eight errors this season and been the most important part of the nation’s best defense.
For Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota, it was a no-brainer.
"First and foremost are his tools and athleticism," Kubota said in a post-draft conference call with beat writers. "He's an elite athlete. We think his defensive ability has the chance to be special.
"He's an outstanding athlete. His agility and athleticism and quickness translate to big range. At the same time, we feel good about his ability to make the routine play, and he has the arm strength to make all the necessary throws at the position. There's really nothing we don't like about his defense. He's a baseball rat. We think he's going to maximize his ability that he has. He's a hard worker. He's a team leader. It's just a very, very positive baseball makeup." (For more from Kubota on Martin, click here).
Martin has admitted in recent weeks that the MLB Draft process can weigh on him. He was able to block it out and play well during the last two weeks of the NCAA Tournament, and as the Gators head to Omaha for the College World Series on Thursday, Martin thinks the draft being over will be a relief for him.
“It's a big relief, actually,” Martin said. “But that's been the main focus is this team and winning. I hadn't wanted to win so bad in my life. Now, we're going to Omaha. That was the most satisfied I've been, winning last week. Hopefully, we can keep it going."