Richie Martin, the A’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, walked into the clubhouse at O.co Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon to find a locker with his name above it – and a University of Virginia hat inside, courtesy of reliever Sean Doolittle.
Virginia, Doolittle’s alma mater, had knocked Martin’s Florida team out of the College World Series 10 days earlier.
“I was like, ‘Dang, man, that’s rude!’” Martin said, grinning. “First day I get here, you got to do that to me?”
Although that loss to Virginia ended Martin’s college career, Tuesday represented the start of his professional one. The A’s announced they had agreed to terms with Martin, drafted 20th overall, and then brought him to the Coliseum, where Martin met with players and staff, put on an A’s uniform and took batting practice.
“I think it can be a little overwhelming to be put in this situation,” said the A’s scouting director, Eric Kubota. “But it’s nice to see when kids can handle that and kind of process the whole situation. And Richie’s really impressed me with his maturity since he’s been here.
“We don’t get the chance to see that when we watch him play (during scouting). Usually you can get a pretty good indication (from a visit) of how they’re going to handle going forward, at least from that aspect. And he’s well ahead of the curve.”
Martin walked up to the Coliseum’s player entrance shortly before 3 p.m., accompanied by his parents, Richard and Deborah, and wearing a sharp, gray suit. As if to underscore the step he was taking, Martin wore well-polished black dress shoes and carried in one hand a pair of the unorthodox white cleats worn by the A’s.
In the clubhouse, Martin chatted with players including Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist – two players Martin said he “grew up watching” in Brandon, Fla. After exchanging his suit for a green No. 12 jersey and white pants, Martin met briefly with reporters before batting practice.
Martin said he knew little about the A’s before this month, outside of watching the movie “Moneyball,” adding: “I’m sure everyone around here is sick of hearing that.” He said he had just met general manager Billy Beane – who was portrayed in the film, of course, by Brad Pitt.
“The hair was spot-on,” Martin said.
As batting practice began, Martin jogged onto the infield, where he fell in behind Marcus Semien at shortstop. He cleanly fielded his first ground ball from infield coach Ron Washington, and made a strong throw to first base. He ranged a bit to his left for his second – and threw directly into the protective screen set up in front of second base.
Granted, Martin now has plenty of time to learn the little details about life in the big leagues. Martin said he was scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. Wednesday to join the A’s short-season Class-A team in Vermont, where he expects to begin playing Thursday. After a draft process he described as “no joke,” Martin said he was relieved to “just get to playing baseball.”
Martin’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Walter Thomas, played for several years in the Negro Leagues, and was a member of the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs team that included Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige. Martin was born in Detroit but said that while he watched the Tigers, he never rooted for a particular team.
As a shortstop, Martin said he grew up admiring Derek Jeter and has drawn comparisons to Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, but added that he resists making comparisons about himself.
“I think that’s where players can get in trouble,” he said. “Trying to be someone they aren’t.”
Still, Martin has spent years aspiring to do what those players do for a living. Tuesday, he walked into a major-league clubhouse and found a locker with his name above it.
“I think the cool thing is that I’m actually here, and I realize I can play with these guys,” Martin said. “I think that’s one of the big things that I notice. These guys, they look huge on TV. But I’m the same size as some of these guys.”