Russell Martin says goodbye to Blue Jays fans

TORONTO — Russell Martin’s favorite Rogers Center memory shares that of many Toronto Blue Jays fans: Jose Bautista’s infamous bat flip in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series.

“Just the excitement of the crowd, you could feel the ground shaking and the energy was insane,” Martin said. “This is definitely a moment that stands out more than any other.”

Martin added another memorable moment on Friday when he threw the opening field in front of a sold-out Canada Day crowd at the Toronto Ballpark. On May 28, he officially announced his retirement from baseball and an appearance at Rogers Center was his chance to say thank you and goodbye to the Blue Jays fans.

Before the game, Martin said he was hoping for “a few clap, a few laughs” when he came out to throw the opening throw. Instead, he got a rousing standing ovation from the packed stadium and a tribute video annotated by Bautista with messages from several former teammates.

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He threw the opening throw to Blue Jays catcher Gabriel Moreno, who is wearing the No. 55 in tribute to Martin. Toronto clubhouse operations manager Mustafa (Moose) Hassan told Martin last season that Moreno would wear his number and connected the two catches over the phone.

“It’s great,” Martin said. “He called me and I just told him there were many, many hits left in this shirt and I wish him the best.”

Martin was born in Toronto and grew up in Montreal. He is one of the most successful Canadians to have played for the Blue Jays. The catcher had a .225 batting average, 66 homers and 211 batted runs, and one All-Star game appearance in his four seasons with Toronto.

He said playing Canada Day in Toronto felt like a typical game at the Rogers Centre.

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“You can feel the energy of the crowd and the crowd is getting hyped for Canada Day,” said Martin, who was in the Blue Jays dugout before the matinee game against the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s special because you get the red jerseys and the crowd feels like it’s in the playoffs even though it’s not the playoffs.

“You have that energy that you don’t really get in a regular season game.”

Martin started his career with the Los Aneles Dodgers before moving on to the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto and then LA last season. He finished his career with a .248 average, 191 home runs, 771 RBIs and four All-Star games.

He said he generally stopped watching baseball and instead focused on raising his kids and playing golf. When asked if he could come out of retirement and represent Canada at an international tournament like the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Martin said it was unlikely.

“I’m so out of shape right now. As much as I’d like to think I could do it, I’m not even close to game form,” he said, laughing. “I have too much respect for the guys who spend a lot of time in their off-season, going to work and tuning in.

“They are like finely tuned racing cars at the moment. I’m like a beat up Chevy.”

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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press Russell Martin says goodbye to Blue Jays fans


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