- Updated: November 28, 2009
Volume II, Issue 21
A Publication For Your Reading Enjoyment
by Charles Farrell
Acto Dignificado (Class Act) – Albert Pujols may have had a better year, and Alex Rodriguez capped off his season with a World Series Championship, but the face – as well as the heart and soul – of Dominican baseball belongs to Pedro Martinez.
He may have fallen short in his World Series appearance that ended with a title for Rodriguez & Company, but Pedro – no need for last names here – is a hero in the minds of most Dominicans who sank or swam on every pitch the 38-year-old legend tossed this year. He started the season here in the Dominican Republic, tending garden with his mother and hoping to latch on with a team for one more shot at another ring. That opportunity finally came late in the season when the Phillies offered him a roster spot and Pedro delivered five wins while displaying flashes of the brilliance that made him an eight-time All Star and three-time Cy Young winner.
His return to baseball was either endorsed or rejected in the Dominican Republic. Many wanted to see him add to his status; others were fearful he would subtract from it. The night he made his season debut I happened to glance out from my rooftop onto what is usually one of the busiest streets in Santo Domingo and it was virtually empty. No need to guess why; everybody was on lock down to watch Pedro.
Pedro’s stats over his 13-year-career support that he is a fantastic pitcher, but what seems to truly set him apart is personality. I met him once and he is one of those rare people in sports who has the charisma to go with his talent. He was among a group of people, many of them baseball stars in their own right, but you could watch the crowd gravitate towards him, and the more attention paid, the more charming Pedro became.
Teammates talk about his ability to sing and joke in the clubhouse before a game, then take the mound with the seriousness of a surgeon about to undertake a delicate operation. Perhaps it was fitting for him to be a central character once again on one of sports’ grandest stages – the World Series.
I am pretty sure Pedro is in the Dominican Republic right now, under a mango tree somewhere, reflecting on his amazing career, which may or may not be over. He has always been someone who has remembered his humble beginnings and the fact that baseball liberated him, but did not erase the connection. He has been generous with his time, energy and money in providing for the educational needs of many of the children in the Santo Domingo neighborhood where he grew up.
Whether or not he returns to baseball next year remains to be seen, but from my vantage point Pedro has not only had a Hall of Fame career, he has had a Hall of Fame life, at least to the people of the Dominican Republic.
At one point during the World Series, Pedro chastised a fan sitting in the front row with his daughter who was saying “all kinds of nasty things,” about the pitcher. “I had to stop and tell him because I’m a father myself,” Martinez said. “God, how can you be so dumb to do those kinds of things in front of your child. What kind of example are you setting?”
The father need only look to Pedro for that example.
Acta Dignificado – When Manny Acta was fired last July as the manager of the Washington Nationals, I lamented that it was sad to see him go, in particular because people of color are scarce in management positions in sports, and it is even rarer that they get a second chance to assume such positions. But Acta has surfaced again, this time as manager of the Cleveland Indians.
I like to tell the story of how I met Acta in the Dominican Republic a year ago at a reception. Not recognizing him, I asked if he was in baseball. “Yes,” he said, “I am the manager of the Washington Nationals.” He showed a wonderful sense of humor when I tried to cover myself by saying I didn’t recognize him because I usually saw him on TV in the dugout with his hat on. He said, “Not likely; we don’t get on TV that much. You only get on TV if you are real good, and we are not there yet.”
Now Acta gets a second shot at taking a bad team to glory and I am hoping he will fare better than he did with the Nationals. It was reported that his communication skills are what impressed the Indians, who see the Dominican Republic native’s ability to relate with the team’s Latino players as a huge plus.