Martinez originally had plans to become a priest but changed his mind soon after starting to catch the attention of Major League scouts.
In the winter before 2011 spring training, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Martinez as the third best prospect in the Cardinals' organization. They moved him up a notch, to #2 in the St. Louis farm system, in the spring of 2012. And he was back at #3 in the offseason before 2013 and #2 in 2014 before spring camps opened.
April 2, 2013: Martinez received his work visa and arrived in Jupiter, Fla., as minor league camp ended, more than three months after he applied for the visa. Carlos began the year in extended spring training before joining the Double-A rotation.
The Cardinals and Carlos both began working on getting the visa before Christmas, but he did not receive it until late March.
February 26, 2014: Martinez issued a public apology for the distraction created when Deadspin pointed out the volume of inappropriate images that appeared on his Twitter account. He later added that the incident has prompted him to "take a break" from social media. And he said that someone had hacked his Twitter acount, putting porn sites on it.
- It's hard to miss the energy and charisma that Carlos brings to the mound, along with a fastball and complementing curveball. And apparently you have to listen to him too, to get the full appreciation of his gregarious personality.
"He comes back in and he's saying all kinds of stuff, sounds like a rooster sometimes," manager Mike Matheny began to explain after the team's series win. "I haven't figured that one out yet. Whatever he's doing, guys are laughing, and they're smiling. That energy that you're talking about when you bring young guys up is contagious. And then he made a couple things happen, too.
"If you're just out here making all kinds of noise and not producing, that's a whole different animal. But he's doing a nice job making things happen on the mound and, today, at the plate."
The Cardinals have never questioned the potential, long labeling Martinez as one of the most exciting young arms in the system. One of his tasks now is to improve that efficiency so he can go deeper into games. The upside is certainly high, and the club sets itself up to use him as a starter as long as needed.
"I've never seen a lack of confidence from this kid no matter what the situation," Matheny said. "Maybe one time when he came up in 2013, it looked like he was a little shell shocked, and that's when Yadi knocked some sense into him on the mound. After that, I haven't seen a guy where I didn't look out there and not think, 'This guy has complete confidence and is going to get the job done.' That's one of his greatest strengths." (Langosch - mlb.com - 7/3/14)
Carlos was surprised to discover that he will be occupying a new spot in the Cardinals' clubhouse in the spring of 2015. Moved from his usual locker locale and displaced from the area designated for the pitchers, Martinez now occupies the stall closest to the clubhouse entrance. The location puts Martinez next to veteran catcher Yadier Molinafor the duration of camp.
"Wow," Martinez, speaking through an interpreter, said of the unexpected relocation to what was, a year ago,Mark Ellis's space. "It's huge. I'm going to have help from him, and it's important that I feel more comfortable around him now. I know I'm going to get a lot of advice from him."
The move was Molina's idea, one that manager Mike Matheny signed off on without hesitation. "He's getting around the right people," Matheny said. "The thing I love about this organization, these veterans, are that they are just teachers. Carlos is going to be the recipient of baseball talk."
For years, Molina has encouraged the organization's Spanish-speaking players to pull up a stool and join him for discussion prior to workouts. So Molina's locker gesture means that he'll spend even more time with Martinez, who is ready to move beyond a trying offseason and prove himself ready for a rotation spot.
Martinez will make his pitch for the job wearing No. 18, the number he requested to wear in honor of his late teammate, Oscar Taveras. The October 2014 death of Taveras, who Martinez has described as being "like a brother," prompted many within the organization to reach out to Martinez during the ensuing months. It was also the genesis of Molina's gesture.
Martinez said. "I'm trying to work on [commanding] the strike zone, because I know it's important so that I can throw more innings, especially now that I'm a starter."
He is stronger, putting on the additional muscle in hopes it will help him handle the workload required of a starting pitcher. (Langosch - mlb.com - 2/16/15)
Carlos says "Pedro Martinez is my favorite because people have said I look like him when I am pitching."
Asked what is his preferred meal before he pitches, Martinez said, "Rice, beans and meat—seasoned like they do in the Dominican Republic."
How do you celebrate a victory? "I always thank God for the opportunity to win and hope that I have another one."
Why did you start throwing a cup of water in the face of teammates? "I used to give them a cup of water and then one day (in July 2015), Matt Carpenter was in a hot streak and it was a very hot day so I decided to cool him off. He liked it so we kept doing it, and soon I was doing it to everyone. They all like it except Yadi, who says he'd rather have a beer." (Cardinals Magazine - May 2016)
Dec 23, 2016: Six years after he began shining shoes as a way to support his family, Carlos Martinez was certain that he had found his calling. He was 12 years old and one of three brothers sharing a cramped bedroom in a home in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, that appeared prone to toppling over with the next gust of wind. They lived with their grandma. Other family members came and went, further cramping the modest two-bedroom home nestled near the base of a hill.
Martinez was often found playing Vitilla, a modified game of baseball using bottlecaps and broomsticks, in his Dominican neighborhood, though in those preteen days he had no idea where the sport would take him. It was merely a form of recreation. As for a purpose? That would be found in the Catholic Church. Martinez had been invited to a Church-sponsored retreat designed to help local children decide whether the path to priesthood was one they desired to walk. Martinez was particularly struck by the opportunity to do good. He saw the Church engaged in community outreach, delivering bags of rice, clothes and other food to those in need.
"That's when this whole giving back to the community started in my heart," Martinez says now, with agent Brian Mejia serving as a translator. "I just liked being a part of that."
Of course, plans don't always stay on script. After four years of course work, Martinez ran into a roadblock when he registered for high school. He didn't have a proper birth certificate—the same issue, incidentally, that would keep him from signing with the Red Sox a year later. The cost to obtain the necessary paperwork was more than his family had, so Martinez was left with no choice but to drop out of the program. It was then that he started taking baseball even more seriously.
Sport would eventually carry him out of the Dominican Republic and onto the television screens of many. With a four-pitch mix and early career comparisons to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, Carlos Ernesto Martinez profiles as a future ace for the St. Louis Cardinals. But while his path may have pivoted, Martinez has discovered that what he most wanted to do as a teenager in Puerto Plata is what he actually has the means to do now. For through baseball, Martinez, 25, found the platform to give back in ways he never imagined. And the impact has been extraordinary.
"I see him as a young adult that is really super gracious for what God has given him and the ability God has given him to help his family and help the community," said Lt. Noe Marquez of the Fairmont City (Ill.) Police Department.
"These are impoverished and disadvantaged families and students who look to someone like Carlos because they can identify with him," said Toni Ponder, the school's senior development director. "They think, 'I can do this, too. I can be successful.' He really promotes education and doing well in school and shooting for your dreams, to never give up. He has a message for our students that is very empowering." (J Langosch - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2016)
January 2017: Martinez committed to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
June 2, 2010: Once known as Carlos Matias, he signed with the Cardinals as a free agent, out of the Dominican Republic. His bonus was a reported $1.5 million. Juan Mercado is the scout who signed him.
Carlos previously had a deal with the Red Sox for $160,000, as a shortstop, but was suspended for a year because of inaccuracies regarding his age and identity. His real name is Carlos Martinez. The Cardinals spent weeks piecing together the proof needed sign him.
- February 2, 2017: Martinez and the Cardinals agreed on a five-year, $51 million pact.