SEATTLE – Raul Ibanez turned off his telephone and tuned out everything but his family Monday, an off day in a Seattle Mariners season when getting away from it all was a wise thing.
On Tuesday, when Ibanez rejoined the real world, the news he missed hit him hard. Edgar Martinez, his idol both professionally and personally, had announced his retirement.
“I know it sounds corny, but I always said I wanted to be like Edgar Martinez,” Ibanez said. “Despite being a superstar, it was the way he treated people and the way he acted the same humble manner. I loved everything about him. He has been a great teammate and a great friend. I pick his brain as much about life as I do about hitting.”
Ibanez, like so many young players over the years, has benefited from Martinez’s 18 years with the Mariners by watching the way he works and asking questions.
Not long after the Mariners selected Ibanez in the 36th round of the 1992 draft, he knew who he wanted to emulate with his game and his life.
“I used to watch everything he did, on and off the field,” Ibanez said. “His preparation was the best I’d ever seen. To this day, I still watch everything he does.”
On a day when the few remaining Mariner veterans spoke of memories with their longtime teammate, the impact Martinez had on developing players was clear. When the kids ask for advice, Martinez gladly gives it to them.
Willie Bloomquist was struggling with a .240 batting average and no idea how to raise it when he approached Martinez during the Mariners’ last homestand.
“He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to come up to you and tell you what you’re doing, but if you ask him he’ll tell you,” Bloomquist said. “Right before the last road trip, I asked him, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ He said, ‘Try this.’ Voila, the next week I had a lot of hits. He said one thing that changed my whole approach, and things just seemed to take off for me.”
Ibanez, who spent five seasons in the Mariners’ minor league system before reaching the majors, has been asking Martinez those kinds of questions for years.
“I was a young guy coming up who never played, but he always made time for me,” Ibanez said. “He always made me feel like my questions were important, even though sometimes I know they must have been silly. He made me feel like my questions meant something and he always took the time to talk to me.”
The veterans feel the same way.
Dan Wilson, the only other current Mariner who played on the 1995 team that reached the playoffs for the first time, called Martinez the Horatio Alger of baseball.
“To come up through the ranks and have such a great career here in Seattle, that’s what we all aspire to be,” Wilson said. “He has climbed all the way up and has been a huge success. It’s tough to see him go.
“I think the last few years there’s always been the question, ‘When will Edgar hang them up?’ But he kept producing and you kind of thought that maybe he’ll never retire.
“It’s going to be a tough day for all of us when he’s not in a Mariner uniform.”