With a nice pre-game tribute and ceremony in front of the Comerica Park faithful, and then an unlikely base hit, Victor Martinez bid farewell to Detroit, and the game of baseball, on Saturday. Martinez will remain with the team the rest of the season, but decided this week to play his last game at Comerica Park.
On their end, the Tigers did a nice job setting up something of a Victor Martinez Day at the park. It gave him the opportunity to say his goodbyes to the home fans and for them to return the love after eight seasons as the Tigers’ designated hitter. It also allows Martinez to more quietly enjoy a last road trip with his young teammates before heading into the next stage of his life. Martinez’s family was on hand, and Miguel Cabrera paused his rehabilitation work to travel from Florida to attend his longtime teammate and friend’s big day.
Prior to the game, the retirement ceremony featured more tears than words. Martinez was gifted with a Tigers-themed saddle and boots by his teammates, with Alex Wilson apparently the mastermind, among other gifts. Martinez owns a ranch in Florida where he plans to spend much of his post-retirement time. Tigers general manager, Al Avila, presented Martinez with a Tigers-themed easy chair, as well as a framed jersey. Martinez thanked the fans, but was quite sweetly overcome with emotion, cutting his comments short to wipe away the tears before his teammates gathered around him in support.
Victor Martinez managed to say a few words between tears. pic.twitter.com/EGkzAEEEtF— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) September 22, 2018
Victor Martinez held back tears long enough for brief speech to fans. "From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank-you for being behind us all these years, supporting my teammates, supporting myself," he said. "Thank you very much."— Jason Beck (@beckjason) September 22, 2018
In honor of his final game, Martinez got the start at first base for the first time in a long time, and saw a bit of action there as Pete Kozma retired Salvador Perez on a ground ball to end the top half of the first inning. Martinez then came to the plate in the bottom half of the frame with Nicholas Castellanos on first base.
That’s right, it was an infield single, because of course it was. Martinez was replaced by Ronny Rodriguez, and allowed a perfect moment to take a final bow before the fans. Long-time Royals foes, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar, both Venezuelans who came up in the game looking up to players like Martinez, each had a hug and kind words for him as a standing ovation rang down from the stands.
Martinez was already a highly respected player before he ever got to Detroit. He’s received tributes from both Cleveland and Boston, where he was one of the best catchers in the league as a younger player. He’ll finish with 2153 hits, with 246 home runs, and a lifetime .295 batting average despite struggling through his final few seasons with the Tigers.
Enjoy retirement, Victor. As a fanbase we’ve had some up-and-downs with the long-time designated hitter, but no one ever doubted his work ethic and intensity at the plate. That’s a heck of a career to be proud of, and we wouldn’t mind a bit if there was a future as at least a part-time hitting coach in the organization for one of the better switch-hitters in baseball history.