Yesterday Leonys Martin finally reported to camp. He had been excused for the first few days in order to testify in the federal trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who were allegedly involved in smuggling multiple Cuban baseball players into the United States. There’s no doubt Martin is happy to have this whole process behind him. To put it lightly, Martin has gone through a tremendous amount of stress in his journey to play in the MLB. In his deposition, he recounted fearing for his life as he was pursued by kidnappers, escaping from Cuba via speedboat, being threatened by eight armed men, withholding the truth from a Customs and Border Protection officer in order to safely enter the United States, and numerous other hardships on his way to America.
“My life was in danger in Mexico,” Martin testified. “My safety was at risk.”
Here is a summary of what else he said in his deposition.
All of these events combined would take a toll on anybody, and it’s very possible that all of the stress and trauma Martin endured in his journey to the MLB affected his play over his first few years in the league. It’s well known that he was very unhappy in Texas, and that was a large part of why the Mariners were able to get him for such a steal. As I looked into the effects long term stress can have on athletic performance, I phoned a friend who majors in psychology here at UW, and she listed a few major responses prolonged stress can induce.
- Anxiety: could lead to loss of concentration on his actions during a game/practice, shakiness, and even affect his breathing
- Cortisol: prevents his recovery ability which leads to slower gains in muscle mass and can impact performance; possibly enters a catabolic state which will break down muscle and store fat instead
- Mental Resources Used Up: leads to fatigue and could lead to other emotional issues, possibly depression
Now, there’s obviously no way to know what exactly Martin was going through in response to everything he endured, but any one of those things could play a significant role in affecting his performance on the field. I won’t pretend to be any sort of psychology expert, but to me it seems that finally putting all of this behind him can only benefit Martin’s performance on the field. Last year, we saw him finally having fun again after leaving Texas, and we saw his numbers rebound tremendously as well.
It’s almost impossible not to root for this guy. In Seattle, Martin has become a centerpiece of the clubhouse. His infectious smile can be seen in the middle of most celebrations, and it’s obvious his teammates are all very fond of him. During his absence from camp, “Missing” posters were put up all around the clubhouse with Martin’s face and a list of various personality traits. Upon his return, players and coaches were immediately aware of the impact his presence had on the team, and might have set a record for most hugs in a single practice. When speaking to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times about Martin’s return, Scott Servais said:
“He’s a big part of what we do here,” manager Scott Servais said. “The personality and life he brings to the clubhouse. He’s already yelling and screaming at guys and guys are screaming back at him. Everybody is back in their comfort zone.”
Martin has endured more than most of us will over the course of our lives to play the game he loves, and since coming to Seattle he has brought nothing but positive energy to the clubhouse. I will always admire his resilience and ability to stay positive even as life has given him more than his fair share of hardship. He has been a great addition to the Mariners thus far, and I’m excited to see where he takes things from here after finally putting his rocky history behind him. Upon his return to camp, Martin spoke with Ryan Divish about his relationship with the Mariners organization.
“This is the organization that gave me a lot of confidence to be who I am and prove myself and go out there and play hard,” he said. “Last year they gave me the confidence to do it and be who I am.”
Finally, because this clip never gets old... we’re happy to have you here as well, Martin.