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Edgar Martinez takes early batting practice to delight of Mariners

Hitting coach Edgar Martinez put on a show for the Mariners players before their game Tuesday. (AP)

HOUSTON – On Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, the show before the show may have been the show as Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez took early batting practice with the team to the delight of everyone on hand.

“Did you guys see Edgar’s show today?” manager Scott Servais asked in his daily meeting with the media. “It’s amazing. It’s a special talent.”

And what did the 53-year-old Martinez, who played his last MLB game 12 years ago, look like at the plate?

“The same as probably when he was playing,” catcher Mike Zunino said, shaking his head. “It took him three swings and then everything else was line drives literally up the middle over the second baseman. The last round he decided to pull some and then put one up near the train tracks.”

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“Some things just never change,” said utility man Shawn O’Malley, who grew up a Mariners fan in the Tri-Cities. “Edgar, he’s still got it. He started off hitting routine line drives over second base and by the end of it he was launching home runs to left field. For me, to see that in person was awesome.”

Outfielder Daniel Robertson, who was called up earlier in the day, had the opportunity to work with Edgar in spring training, but the experience of seeing him take batting practice took him right back to his childhood growing up in West Covina, Calif.

“I grew up a Mariners fan, very huge,” he said. “I vividly remember and still get emotional. I will get goosebumps talking about the ball he hit down the line and Junior scoring. Watching him take BP, once he got loose it looked the exact same, but with who he is now, if that makes sense, as his experience in life has gotten a little bit longer than all of ours. It was the same player. He was hitting line drives up the middle. He hit a ball up in the Crawford Box. I mean, off the back wall! It was the exact same person. His swing didn’t change. I don’t know how much he swings nowadays but he steps in the cage and 12 balls in he looks like Edgar Martinez chasing a batting title. That’s what it looks like.”

A couple of players told me last year that they would sometimes ask Edgar questions in the cages just to get him to step in and swing so they could watch. Edgar has the rare ability of being able to get into any hitter’s swing, but they wanted to see his swing, the swing they grew up watching. To see a full batting practice on the field? That was special.

“It’s just fun,” Zunino said. “Everyone knows his career and how accomplished he is. To see him go out there and have some fun and still do it and do it like that, you are always in a sense of awe over how much he can still do.”

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Said O’Malley: “I just sat back and took it all in. I literally sat there and was like, ‘Man, I’m watching Edgar Martinez take batting practice right now.’ I actually tried to take something away from him. He’s just so relaxed and so comfortable. It was amazing how focused he still was even though he was just screwing around.”

A treat for those who were there to see it.

“He’s hitting .390 right now and he’s working on his batting title,” said Robertson, still living back in 1995. “Oh wait, just kidding! I retired and I’m going to be a Hall of Famer. Here, kid, keep working up the middle. Here’s your bat back.”

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