Dave Martinez got an early introduction to baseball from his father, who was born in Puerto Rico and then moved to New York City with his family.
Martinez, 53, the first-year Nationals manager, saw his first Major League game at old Yankee Stadium as a young boy.
“I can remember Oscar Gamble and Bobby Murcer, and all those guys,” recalls Martinez, naming two former outfielders who both played with the Yankees in the 1970s and 1980s.
Martinez returns to New York for the first time as a manager at any level when the Nationals begin a three-game series Monday night against the red-hot Mets.
A native of Brooklyn, Martinez still has extended family in the New York region.
“To go back there (to New York), that is kind of where it pretty much started,” he said.
But forget sentimentality. The Nationals need to start winning, or risk an early hole back of the Mets.
The Nationals were preseason favorites in the National League East but lost all three games against the Mets at Nationals Park earlier this month. New York was five games ahead of the Nationals going into Sunday’s schedule.
There may be some early pressure on Martinez, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Manhattan before attending high school in Florida.
After one year at a junior college in Florida he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He made his way up through the minor league ladder and broke into the majors with the Cubs in 1986.
Martinez played for the San Francisco Giants in 1993 under manager Dusty Baker, who was fired after last season after two years as the Nationals skipper. A pitcher on that 1993 team was Bud Black, now the manager of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies took three of four from the Nationals in the weekend series that ended Sunday in Washington.
“The thing that Davey does well is his interaction with everybody,” Black told The Washington Times. “I remember he crossed all sections of the Giants roster. He was great to have as a teammate and was a good little player, too.”
Black said he wasn’t surprised to see his former teammate become a coach.
“He knew how to play. He had a great personality. I could see Davey, post-playing career, going to coaching, which he did.”
Up next for the Nationals
Opponent: New York Mets
Where: Citi Field, New York
When: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.
Probable pitchers for Nationals: Monday (A.J. Cole or Jeremy Hellickson), Tuesday (Gio Gonzalez, Wednesday (Tanner Roark)
Probable pitchers for Mets: Monday (Jacob deGrom), Tuesday (Zack Wheeler), Wednesday (Steven Matz)
What’s at stake: The Nationals lost all three games at home to the Mets earlier this month and can’t afford to fall further behind.
They said it: “Some guys are generally slow starters … These guys have been around for a long time. They know what they need to do. I don’t panic. These guys are going to hit. I know they’re going to hit,” said Dave Martinez, the Nationals rookie manager.
Did you know? Mets reliever Jerry Blevins is a former member of the Nationals bullpen. He was teammates at the University of Dayton with former Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen, now with San Diego.