In 2004, Martin was drafted by the Tigers out of high school in the 18th round. But instead of turning pro, he went to McLennan Community College in Texas.
In 2005, the Rockies chose him in the 21st round as a draft-and-follow. But he again did not sign.
During Chris' sophomore year at McLennan (2007), he partially tore his right labrum and underwent surgery. When his shoulder didn’t respond, the 6-foot-7 Martin assumed his pitching days were done. He went home to Arlington, Texas, and ended up working for an appliance store in the warehouse. Martin spent three years out of baseball before returning in 2010, first in a local men’s league and then he tried out and then signed with Grand Prairie of the independent America Association.
Martin is a bit of a weather bug. "I really wanted to major in meteorology, and I wanted to chase tornadoes," he said. "I've chased a few, actually seen a couple in person. It's pretty intense. A lot of adrenaline you get."
Because of a shoulder injury, he wound up loading trucks for UPS, working (and disliking) working at Lowe's, then rolling fridges and washing machines on dollies for a warehouse called Texas Appliance. He wasn't moving toward meteorology or any type of rewarding career.
"There were times I needed to go to school, but I needed to work and make money and pay the bills," Martin said. One day while working at Texas Appliance, his boss brought a ball and gloves and wanted to throw. The ball came out of Martin's hand with the old life. And the next day, he didn't hurt anymore. He thinks his body matured.
"When I was younger, I was skinny and throwing as hard as I am now," Martin said. "I don't think the shoulder was able to handle that much pressure or velocity. Over the years I gained weight and put muscle on."
In 2010, Martin signed with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association. The Red Sox saw him, worked him out a couple of times and signed him for the 2011 season. The maturity he learned in the real world helped him deal with baseball's ups and downs.
In 2014, he didn't pick up a baseball. He didn't even want to watch baseball. He worked as a UPS delivery man and as a warehouse stockboy. As ballplayers he played against in college were moving up, from one minor league stop to the next, he bounced around for from one odd job to another, from Lowe's to UPS to Bass Pro Shops to Texas Appliance to a pool supply store.
And still there was always something burning inside Chris Martin. Deep down he always believed he could make it to The Show—it just didn't seem like the odds were in his favor when he was making 10 bucks an hour as a forklift operator, barely scraping by.
It's a story that could be a rags-to-riches, macho weepy Disney baseball movie someday. It is the most improbable story of the baseball season, the tale of the Rockies' 27-year-old rookie pitcher who was once as big of a longshot to stick with a major league organization as a couple of former javelin throwers from rural India were to sign pro contracts.
One morning four years ago at Texas Appliance, a retail dealership off Interstate 20 in Arlington, Texas, a game of catch broke out in the warenhouse aisles after one of the workers showed up with a glove and a ball. Martin—a former high school star whose baseball dreams faded after he tore his labrum in college—took the baseball and began throwing to a worker in a catcher's crouch. The workers watching the 6-foot-7 Martin pump 95 mph fastballs between aisles of refrigerators and upright freezers started thinking that perhaps their forklift operator should consider pursuing a different line of employment. "I think I still have a bruise in my butt from one of his curveballs," says the warehouse manager, Jed Stanphill.
Fast forward to May 7, 2014: Five miles down the road from Texas Appliance, 10 miles from his childhood home in Arlington, Martin took the mound in the seventh inning of the Rockies-Rangers game at Globe Life Park, two weeks after making his Major League debut. The towering, lanky righthander retired Texas in order with 100 family members and friends watching from the stands.
Even Chris Martin will tell you that the Chris Martin Story is surreal. "That was when it all hit me, that this was all actually happening," he says. "Stepping onto that field in my hometown, in front of all those people who stuck with me through it all—it was hard to just take it all in." (Albert Chen - 5/19/2014)
Chris Martin’s path to the Yankees has taken him through jobs at UPS, Lowe’s and Texas Appliance, in and out of independent ball, and past a serious shoulder injury.
The Yankee reliever, acquired from the Rockies for cash, was drafted twice but didn’t sign. He finally caught the eyes of the Red Sox, who wanted him to come to their complex in Fort Myers for a tryout. The one catch? He had to pay his own way from his native Arlington, Texas.
Martin’s dad bought tickets for his son and him and Martin impressed the Sox enough to get signed. He spent three years in their system and got traded to the Rockies and made his big-league debut for Colorado in 2014.
The Yankees, obviously, are more interested in Martin’s arm and potential than his quirky backstory, which has been reported in multiple media outlets. The Yanks believe Chris can compete in spring training for a role in their bullpen. If he doesn’t make it, he has options so he can be stashed in Triple-A.
“He’s a strike thrower and he gets ground balls,” Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman said. “Hopefully, he’ll take that bag of tricks from the Rockies organization over here. We scouted him and saw the numbers and you can’t deny there’s something there." (McCarron - NY Daily News - 1/14/2015)
"I'm sure everyone has his own little thing that keeps him going, but I know how fast baseball can get taken away, so I don't take it for granted," Martin said. "I stay humble because of it."
Twice drafted but unsigned, Martin thought his pitching days ended in the fall of 2005, when he was injured while wearing the uniform of Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas. He tried rest and rehab on the advice of Keith Meister, the Rangers' team physician, but ultimately had surgery in August 2007 to repair his labrum and shoulder capsule.
After healing, Martin tried out for an independent team, but his shoulder continued to bark with sharp pain with every toss. He made the difficult decision to put the glove and spikes away, filling out an application with Lowe's and tacking on a UPS job to score health insurance.
"I was always going to go back to school and always wanted to be a weather guy; I wanted to chase the tornadoes," Martin said. "My favorite movie is 'Twister.' I remember I saw it as a kid and I was like, 'Man, this is awesome.' That was the plan, but I never really got to it. Then baseball came back."
In an arc lifted from cinema, a chance encounter with a high school buddy flipped Martin's script. Jordan Bostick was a year behind Martin at Arlington High School, and over beers at a local bar, he suggested that Martin come work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington. "I did everything, from stocking to delivering to installing," Martin recalled.
It was there, between the rows of refrigerators and dishwashers awaiting sale and shipment, that Bostick strapped a left-handed catcher's glove on and squatted. Martin had not picked up a ball for about three years, limiting his play to slow-pitch softball, but he went into his windup and fired. Pop!
The ball "nearly took my thumb off," Bostick would later tell The Associated Press. "I was just messing around," Martin said. "I had no idea how hard I was throwing, but I knew my arm felt better and that maybe I could have a shot to play again. I had no idea."
Martin guesses that putting on about 30 pounds during his time away from the game, and perhaps moving around those heavy appliances helped heal the shoulder. Rest certainly didn't hurt. Whatever it was, Martin was thrilled to throw without pain.
Chris pitched a few times in a men's league and had no issues, leading to a tryout with the independent Grand Prairie Airhogs, a team managed by former big league slugger Pete Incaviglia. The bullpen catcher's stinging hands secured Martin's spot on that roster, a job that paid $800 a month.
"I remember I played in a men's league game, and one of the guys said I was throwing 80 [mph]. A week later, I went to the tryout and I was hitting 95," Martin said. "I didn't have a clue; I thought I was throwing 80. I just knew my arm felt better and I had a pretty good chance to get back into it."
Incaviglia tipped off a Red Sox scout, Jamie Bane, who agreed to have Martin fly to Fort Myers, Florida, to throw in front of Boston officials—with the caveat that he would be doing so on his own dime. It led to a Minor League contract, and Martin's father has kept the check that the Red Sox later provided to reimburse for airfare and a room at the Ramada Inn. "It was worth the trip," Martin said.
"This is my life," Martin said. "Ever since I was born, I had a baseball in my hand. When it was taken away from me, it was pretty hard. I went through a rough time. I'm super blessed to be back playing." (Hoch - mlb.com - 3/20/2015)
Martin made his first Opening Day roster in 2015 by striking out the side in the fifth inning whiffing the trio of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson in his Yanks debut. He pitched another scoreless frame in the 4-3 Yankees victory.
It was a world away from the warehouse at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where Martin once loaded 53-foot trailers with boxes, or the store where he used to operate a forklift in the lawn and garden section.
A labrum and capsule injury in the fall of 2005 refused to heal, requiring surgery two years later, but Martin's shoulder still barked with each toss. He put on 30 pounds, played slow-pitch softball and found employment at an appliance warehouse in Arlington, Texas, where a high school buddy randomly asked him to play catch.
Perhaps it was the weeks of lifting and installing dishwashers and refrigerators, but suddenly he discovered the ability to throw without pain—and in the 90-plus mph range, as a tryout would confirm. A stint in an independent league led to chances with the Red Sox, Rockies and now the Yankees.
Late in 2015 Spring Training camp, Martin looked at videos of his 2013 season and saw that he used to hold his hands a bit higher. The Rockies had urged him to move them down, but returning to that old form seems to have improved his rhythm.
"I'm usually a guy that keeps the ball on the ground," Martin said. "I think they saw the low walks and the high strikeouts, and that gave me a chance. I just need to work on keeping the ball on the ground." (Hoch - mlb.com - 4/8/2015)
PLAYED IN JAPAN
In 2017, Martin was dominating for two years in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters. The 31-year-old appeared in a combined 92 games with a 1.12 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP. He averaged 9.3 strikeouts, 4.7 hits and 1.3 walks per nine innings with 22 saves in 2016-2017.
Chris pitched an inning for the Rangers in a March 25, 2018, exhibition game against the Reds, and his entry music was "Give Me Back My Hometown" by Eric Church. Manager Jeff Banister loved it. "That tells you a lot about him and the pride he has for being here," Banister said.
Martin will be back at Globe Life Park and in his hometown for the Rangers' opener against the Astros on Opening Day 2018. He will make history with his first regular-season appearance.
Martin will be the first Major League player born in Arlington to play for the Rangers, and the first Arlington High School graduate, too. In a year where city pride has been on full display with the construction of the new ballpark, it will be a big moment for Martin and Arlington.
"There are going to be quite a few people here," Martin said. "This isn't my first time pitching here, but first time in a Rangers uniform, so family and friends are going to be really excited. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Former Rangers pitcher Todd Van Poppel played at Arlington Martin High, but he was born in Illinois. Outfielder Michael Choice was born in Fort Worth and played at Mansfield Timberview. Martin is all Arlington.
"I have had a lot of friends and family text me and say, 'It's been a long time since we have been to the home opener, but we are going to be there this year.'" Martin said. "I was able to get my feet wet pitching here the other day, but Opening Day is going to be really amped up. I am excited about it."
Martin graduated from Arlington High in 2004. It has taken 14 years to make the 4 1/2-mile trip from Arlington High to Globe Life Park. Martin, among other things, has spent three years working at places like Lowe's, UPS, and Texas Appliances. The joke in the Martin family is this: How does your injured shoulder get better? By moving refrigerators.
"A lot of speed bumps," Martin said. "It's a road, though, no matter how bumpy or rocky. A lot of people don't get this opportunity, so I'm just going to take it all in and enjoy it."
Martin went to McLennan College out of high school and blew out his right shoulder his sophomore season and was seemingly finished. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, and that was that.
Martin's jobs included hauling appliances and delivering packages. At one point in 2010, an old friend suggested they play catch. Martin did so, and his shoulder did not hurt. He found there was still some pop in his pitches. He tried out with the Grand Prairie AirHogs just down the freeway from Arlington and made the team. (Sullivan - mlb.com - 3/28/2018)
March 31, 2011: Martin signed with the Red Sox, out of the independent American Association.
December 18, 2013: The Rockies sent SS Jonathan Herrera to the Red Sox, acquiring Martin and LHP Franklin Morales.
January 13, 2015: The Yankees sent cash to the Rockies, acquiring Chris.
December 2015: After the 2015 season, the Yankees sold the contractual rights to Martin to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball's Pacific League for $750,000. (Chris pitched in Japan in 2016 and 2017.)
December 11, 2017: The Rangers reached an agreement with Martin on a two-year contract worth $4 million.
July 30, 2019: The Rangers traded Martin to the Braves for LHP Kolby Allard.
Oct 31, 2019: Chris elected free agency.
- Nov 19, 2019: The Braves signed free agent Martin to a two-year, $14 million contract.