Braves mourn loss of Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez, seen here at the left, watches batting practice with Braves international scouting director Johnny Almaraz.

His name was on page 182 of last year’s Braves media guide. That might make you think Jose Martinez was not very significant. But in fact, there’s nothing farther from the truth.

Martinez was a crucial member of the Braves organization. He was a scout, but he was so much more than that to so many people.

That’s why when the news broke Thursday morning that Martinez had died Wednesday night, many people around the game of baseball could simply not believe it.

Martinez seemed indestructible, like an old war general who would be the last to go down before surrender. He was tough, yet if he liked you, there was no better friend in the world.

I only saw Martinez once a year, in spring training. But there were not many better memories of my trips than my long conversations with him. He would tell stories and simply talk baseball.

He was good at that, even if his dialect was a little thick and you’d have to listen very closely. Martinez was honest and straight-forward, and when you’d ask him to tell stories about his playing days or when he coached certain players from the past, his eyes would sparkle.

Martinez was a baseball guy. In the last few years, he even fit the mold of an old baseball scout, which is what he had become. He wore a rain jacket with the Braves logo on it, along with one of those goofy circular scout hats. It just fit him perfectly, making him look like the wise sage he was when it came to the game he loved.

Martinez mentored players. He would encourage them and teach them. He had a huge presence in the Braves complex in the Dominican Republic. He had an eye for young talent and would fight for them if he believed they needed more attention by the organization.

He also mentored coaches. Martinez would help teach them the Braves way of doing things, which is different from the way other teams do things. He would teach them how to view talent and what to look for in a potential major leaguer.

Martinez was a favorite of Braves president John Schuerholz. He worked for Schuerholz in Kansas City, first as a minor league player (when Schuerholz was in the minor league office), then as a minor league coach and manager and then as a major league coach for Dick Howser’s Royals in the mid-1980s. He was on the staff when the Royals won the pennant in 1980 and when they won the World Series in 1985.

He then joined Jim Frey’s staff in Chicago, who had also been his first manager in Kansas City. Martinez was with the Cubs for seven seasons (1988-1994) before he rejoined Schuerholz with the Braves in 1995.

He spent 20 years in the organization. The Braves had become part of him. He loved the organization. Unfortunately, in the last few years, Martinez was made to feel somewhat insignificant by the front office that was recently removed. Like others, Martinez was not listened to and trusted, and that was so misguided. He was a man of great knowledge, and even if he was disagreed with, he should have been more respected by those who have now been let go for not doing that enough.

This is quite a loss. Jose Martinez personified that Braves Way that Schuerholz talks about with so much pride. It’s about the people in this organization that is the foundation for the success. Martinez’s death leaves a huge void, and his absence will be felt by many.

We’ll all be looking for Jose in his golf cart, stopwatch in hand, watching the latest phenom next spring. It’ll break a lot of hearts to see him not there anymore.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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