He has a street named after him, and on Saturday night he will take possession of a number. Edgar Martinez will receive the highest honor the Mariners can bestow upon a player as his number will be retired in a ceremony on the field before the Mariners’ game against the Angels.
The honor is deserved in the opinion of many, but it’s still not the ultimate honor: being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Following the season, the lobbying and debating to get Edgar into the Hall of Fame will resume, a continuation of a years-long effort to educate the thankfully dwindling percentage of Hall of Fame voters who don’t quite understand the impact he had on the game. But Saturday is about celebrating the man who very well may be the most beloved athlete in Seattle sports history.
Seattle sports fans have never taken break-ups with their stars well, but Edgar never had that moment. He in fact moved in and stayed. Beyond his numbers, beyond the heroics on the field, is the special relationship Edgar built with Seattle fans in his 18 years in a Mariners uniform. In this day and age that perhaps gets lost a little bit, but head trainer Rick Griffin, who has been with the Mariners since 1983, brought it back beautifully when asked about Edgar’s place in Mariners history.
“He was my mother’s favorite player, by far,” he said. “My mom passed away a few years ago and building up to this weekend I have been thinking a lot about my mom, how excited she would have been. She would have driven up here from Utah; she just loved him to death. As much as she loved him and the joy that he brought her watching him play, it’s that way with a lot of people. He was such a fan favorite and people admired his work ethic and the way he played.”
It could have been easy to be overlooked in a clubhouse full of personalities and future Hall of Famers. Edgar didn’t snarl and throw 100 mph, and he wasn’t a 19-year-old prodigy who could climb walls one minute and send the ball into the upper deck the next. He was a late arrival – no fault of his own, his body often fighting him, from his eyesight to his legs. Tireless work – smart work at that, often improvising in ways others who were there said they had never seen before – took him to the top of the game.
To visualize the term “slow the game down,” you need look no further than any Edgar plate appearance. When the bat was raised and his gaze trained toward the pitcher, there was no question who was in control of that at-bat. There was a calm in Edgar that enveloped those watching, teammates included. He’s got this.
For all of this, and yes, the sparkle and his eye and lilt in his voice that came across on the TV screen too, he was appreciated. Edgar did everything he could for his Mariners teams in the 18 years he wore the uniform. And when they needed more, he came back.
He’s the one who didn’t get away, and for that, Mariners fans are very lucky.