By Johnathan Vogel
As the New York Yankees were playing in the World Series at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, a three-year-old Noeh Martinez first had his exposure to the game of baseball in Highland Park, a part of Los Angeles several miles northeast from the downtown area.
Surrounded by sprawling single-family houses, soccer fields, and indoor gyms, it was surprising that Martinez would learn about the game of baseball. “I lived about five minutes walking distance from the Los Angeles Little League of Garvanza,” Martinez reflected on his early beginnings. “That was basically when I started playing baseball. I played there until I was 13.”
Soon afterwards, Martinez’s talent stood out as he was selected to play as a part of an all-star club team, comprised of Garvanza Little League and another nearby league. The grind was tough, but fun. “We just started traveling to places like Arizona and [Las] Vegas,” said Martinez. “It’s where all of my baseball experience comes from.”
Martinez is grateful for the support he received from family and mentors in his formative years, which led him continuing to play baseball. Martinez’s dad also played a key role. “He played professionally,” said Martinez with traces of solemnity in his voice. “He played minor league with AAA California Angels and AA Dodgers. Then he also played in the Mexican Major Leagues. Hearing from family members about him always made him my inspiration. I always wanted to be like him.”
Martinez’ dad provided his son with critical feedback about his game, to ensure that he could one day compete at the highest level and exceed the expectations he had for his son. How to be a skilled outfielder, how to hit and avoid injury – for Martinez it all traces back to the conversations he and his dad would have at his little league games. Such a presence provided what might be becoming rare nowadays – the patience to impart lessons and values to the next generation.
There were some rough spots along the way as Martinez approached his junior year. There were deaths in his family that he had to reconcile and make sense of. Fortunately, he had the resolve to persevere and not feel blame or lose hope. This adversity, as difficult it is for anyone, was not able to interfere with Martinez’ plan, which was to be the best baseball player he could be.
In high school, Martinez’ performance on the field earned him two back-to-back First Team All-League selections in centerfield. In his senior year, as a third baseman, he was honored with Second Team All-League. As his skills improved, awards followed him at the college level. At the city college, he received a Gold Glove award during his freshman year and honorable mention for his play as a right fielder. In his sophomore year, he was again awarded with an honorable mention award.
As is tradition at Arroyo Seco, players spend June through July staying in baseball shape and developing into polished athletes who can one day enter the major leagues. “I figured out how to play the game the right way,” said Martinez with emphasis. “When I’m batting, I know that I’m not going to succeed 100 percent of the time, but if I can just come through most of the time in those clutch situations – that will make me a better baseball player and better teammate.”
As in most sports, there is no guarantee that every team will develop rapport. There are always flare-ups in player relationships that cause distractions and controversy. Nonetheless, it is important for Martinez to be a team player. “You don’t have to like every one of your teammates all the time, but you have to be able to work with them and respect them and come together as a team to work as one.”
It is no surprise that Martinez finds inspiration in the particular style of play of Anaheim Angel Mike Trout. Both Martinez and Trout have fun, even when they are performing at the highest level in important games, both willing to wear a smile on their face. Both players have good control of their emotions, even when it may make sense to become frustrated or angered. This is the “right way” that baseball ought to be played.
But Martinez sees himself as capable of excelling at any task that he undertakes, whether it is becoming a successful coach, personal trainer, voice or stage actor, or broadcaster. The inspiration for these career paths is the product of determination, self-confidence, fearlessness, and humility. “I know it’s going to be really hard in and of itself,” said Martinez with slight heaviness of realism. “But I feel that if I can work hard to get to that point then I can do it.”