- - Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The 1986 Iowa Cubs, the top minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, fell short of winning the Triple-A American Association title that year.

But it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of knowledge in the dugout.

One of the pitchers for Iowa that season was Greg Maddux, who earned nicknames such as “Mad Dog” and “The Professor” during a Major League career that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His brother, Mike, was the pitching coach of the Washington Nationals the past two seasons and is now with the St. Louis Cardinals.

An outfielder on that Iowa club was the cerebral Terry Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles and almost captured his third ring with the Cleveland Indians in a seven-game loss to the Cubs in the 2016 Fall Classic.

Meanwhile, the legacy of another outfielder with that club in Des Moines has yet to be written.

Dave Martinez, 53, the new manager of the Nationals, also made his big league debut with the Cubs in 1986 and played in the majors until 2001.

But his managerial resume is an open book, as he takes over Washington for his first post as a skipper at any level. Martinez spent the past few years as the bench coach with Joe Maddon and the Cubs.

Among his managers as a player was Bobby Cox, a longtime skipper of the Atlanta Braves. His manager in Iowa in 1986 was former big leaguer Larry Cox (no relation), who died at the age of 42 in 1990.

“I had some pretty good teachers. I learned how to play the game the right way,” said Martinez, who was born in Brooklyn and lives in Clearwater, Florida.

The Nationals’ pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Wednesday and the first workouts are Friday. Position players report on Monday with their first workout on Wednesday.

Pitcher Shawn Camp, who played at Robinson High and George Mason University in Fairfax, was with Tampa Bay in 2006 and 2007 when Martinez was a spring training instructor. Martinez was also the first base coach for Tampa Bay for a few weeks early in 2007 with Maddon.

“He is a personable guy. He has a lot of passion, a lot of energy, he brought to the field every day,” said Camp, who now lives in Haymarket, Virginia. “He was always approachable. He was a guy who was just down to Earth. He is going to be loved in the clubhouse (by the players). He is going to be a guy who will lead.”

Martinez was interviewed by the Nationals before Matt Williams was hired prior to the 2014 season.

“A guy we have thought about and known about for a long time,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said when Martinez was hired. “He is a creative mind. His resume is impeccable.”

The hiring of Martinez, according to some experts, begins a shift toward a more analytical skipper for the Nationals. He said he embraced the use of data while with the Cubs and appears to be a shift away from the previous two Washington skippers: the rigid Williams, who was fired after the 2015 season; and the lovable, people-oriented Dusty Baker, a fringe Hall of Fame skipper who was let go after two division titles in two seasons but also couldn’t win a playoff series.

Martinez has gotten to know fans in the region this winter.

He attended the 2018 Washington Auto Show and signed autographs there on Feb. 1. The next night, Martinez was the featured guest at the George Mason University First Pitch Dinner in Fairfax.

He was able to meet George Mason coach Billy Brown, who begins his 37th season with the Patriots on Friday in South Carolina against The Citadel.

“I had never met him before. He is a great guy, really engaging. I told someone after the banquet: Dave has himself a few hundred new fans. You can tell he is someone who relates well with his players,” said Brown, who has 997 career wins at Mason.

Martinez, who is married with four children, first met Maddon when he was a teenager early in his minor league career. Then, Maddon was the Tampa Bay skipper when he asked Martinez if he wanted to get into coaching.

“Since that moment in 2008, my first (full) year (as a coach), we ended up going to the World Series and losing,” Martinez said. “Since then I really had the burning sensation of being considered as a manager one day. Through process and preparation and going through all of the interviews, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my skills.”

And what about managing the Nationals?

“A dream come true,” Martinez said.

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