- Russell's full name is Russell Nathan Coltrane Jeanson Martin. Nathan is for his great grandfather. The Jeanson is his Mom's maiden name, and the Coltrane is in homage to John Coltrane, jass saxophonist extraordinaire.
- When Russell Martin Sr. could see that Russell Jr. had a special talent in baseball, he began to play music in the Montreal subway system so he'd have the flexibility in his schedule to practice baseball with his son. He played jazz and the blues.
"I could make enough money to get myself through school and look after us," Martin Sr. said. "Not enough to buy any extras or anything. We were on a very tight budget, but it gave me the freedom to be with him and keep him going [in baseball].
"He had something about him that made me attend to it. It's like I didn't have a choice, it's exactly what I wanted to do. And it's really helped me out as a person, too—to have a contribution in something like that."
Baseball for this father and son go back to nearly the beginning of Russell Jr.'s life. In fact, maybe far enough back to where Russell, Jr. has no memories to speak of. His father said he was two years old when he started playing ball with his son. (Amanada Branam-MLB.com-6/16/06)
Russel's mother was an actress, who appeared in her own TV series in Canada.
Russell's parents split when he was just two years old. He lived in Ottawa with his mother during the school year, then spent summers with his Dad in Quebec. Father and son rode the subway to Olympic Stadium to watch the Expos. And Big Russ played the role of radio broadcaster. He invented scenarios in which local phenom Russell Martin, just up from the minors, knocked the dirt off his cleats, stepped in the box, and belted one over the fence. As Little Russ listened from his seat on the train, his 10-year-old heart pounded feverishly.
"I could see that he enjoyed it, but I didn't know it meant so much to him," Big Russ said. "You try to do so much for your kids, but you don't know what's working until you get some feedback from them." (Jerry Crasnick-Baseball America-October 23, 2006)
When he was a youngster, Russell stayed with his mother in Paris, France. One problem: he ate a whole lot while in France. He loved French food.
Also, he experienced racism for the first time while in France.
- Martin attended the same Montreal high school as Eric Gagne. And he was raised in the same neighborhood as Padres catcher Pete LaForest.
Martin, from Canada, plays baseball with a hockey mentality. He is a hard-nosed competitor.
His constant smile and positive outlook are part of his excellent leadership traits.
- During the offseason before 2005 spring training, Baseball America rated Martin as 6th-best prospect in the Dodgers organization. And before 2006 spring camp opened, the magazine rated Russ as 4th-best prospect in the LA farm system.
- In the August 2005 "Best Tools" issue of Baseball America, Martin was named the Best Defensive Catcher and as the owner of the Best Strike Zone Judgment.
Late one night in the summer of 2005, Russell was sitting on a stoop with minor league teammate Beau Dannemiller, trying to cheer up the struggling reliever, when two thieves approached, one wielding a gun. The pair demanded wallets and car keys.
"Beau just started getting angry, like he was going to do something," Martin says. "And I'm like, 'Beau, O.K. man, relax.' You never know how you're going to react in a situation like that, but I was so calm. Gave them my wallet and the keys to my buddy's Escalade. They told us to get behind the bushes, so I did."
Once Martin was camouflaged by the shrubs, he sprinted away, en route scaling a six-foot fence, which is why you have to love those catchers who run well. He says the thieves were never caught.
"The next day I was like, Wow, you never know what might happen to you at any given time. I was just happy to be alive and playing baseball. This was the turning point of my life. You realize how fragile it is, so why not give a little extra effort and have fun with what you're doing?" (Michael Farber-Sports Illustrated-7/02/07)
- In 2006, Russ's father played the National Anthem on the saxophone before a game at Dodger Stadium. Russ held the microphone for his father.
- According to Dodgers G.M. Dan Evans, "Russ is one of the few players who is not afraid of being a leader. He isn't afraid of being the man, because he's not afraid of failure."
- Russell was honored with the Dodgers' Heart & Hustle Award, chosen by the MLB Players Alumni Association. Martin received the award from former Dodger Maury Wills and becomes eligible for the league-wide award that is selected from all 30 team nominees. Martin earlier won the annual Roy Campanella Award, voted by his teammates and coaches.
- Martin is a tremendous athlete. Because of his agility, he can do things that most shortstops or center fielders can't do. He will walk on his hands in the clubhouse. And he can do flips. He is very strong and agile. And Russell's desire and passion to win is at a higher level than most players.
Russell will change things up pretty often. He has grown Elvis-type sideburns, had a mustache, grown a beard, and even had a Mohawk. And he once shaved his face during a game after what he considered a terrible at-bat.
"I've been like that since high school," Martin said. "I like changing stuff up. I'm not a guy who's going to have the same haircut for 40 years. I just like changing. I especially like switching up the style of facial hair."
Russ arrived at 2009 spring training more comfortable, tranquil, and calm in his surroundings. This new version of Martin says he has come to like his role as the team's player representative, which he took reluctantly last year when Scott Proctor had to be replaced. He hired a new agent and has said he would be open to signing a multiyear deal with the Dodgers that would let them buy out his arbitration years, something he wasn't open to a year ago. Yoga has become a part of his off-season regimen.
"For me, it's been an offseason of a lot of personal changes," he said.
No change more important than his new live-in girlfriend, Marikym, a model from his home province of Quebec, Canada. She also is a singer, and she is becoming an award-winning chef. And she is a sister of pitcher Eric Gagne's wife.
"I was in high school getting on the Metro when I saw her picture on a billboard," Martin says. "I remember thinking, 'That girl is beautiful.'
"She's helped me with a lot of things," he said. "I'm just trying to learn things. That's the ultimate goal. How to treat people. To try to realize stuff before it's too late."
- In 2009, the back of Russell's uniform said "J. Martin," with the "J" showing love for his mother, whose maiden name was Jeanson.
- In 2013, after Russell turned down a chance to play for team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, the boos from the Canadian portion of the McKechnie Field record crowd of 8,439 kept getting louder every time Martin came to bat against the Blue Jays.
By Martin's third turn at bat in the mid-March exhibition game, his back was to a wall of noise. But the Pirates catcher, a target of venting ever since that decision, got the last word after drilling a sharp single through the box off Jeremy Jeffress.
"I did point to the crowd. I was like, 'That was for you guys,'" said Martin, who was not surprised by the boos. "I was expecting it," he said, presumably having heard a lot worse in the 2 1/2 weeks since asking off Canada's provisional roster. "But I've got something in my back pocket for down the road. We'll see what happens."
Whatever that mysterious action might be, Martin seemed quite tolerant of the reaction to his decision, secure in the belief it was the right one.
While you might recall he had cited an inability to play shortstop in the Classic as the reason for his withdrawal, it must be remembered that days later he came down with the sore throwing shoulder that would've made his participation impossible, anyway.
"I don't believe [fans of Canada] truly hate me. Maybe they're just a little emotional about the fact I didn't go," Martin said. "But I had my reasons—and they weren't what everybody expected. My decision was a good one, because it made me feel good inside."
In March 2013, Martin would wrap up batting-practice sessions in spring training by taking grounders at short. He raised a minor international furor by declining to join Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic because they wouldn't let him play short. During the 2013 season, Martin was occasionally in the Pirates' starting lineup as a third baseman.
And whenever Martin comes out from behind the plate to play elsewhere, people react as if seeing a fish try to walk on land. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle humors the questions and keeps explaining patiently that Martin is capable of playing multiple positions.
"He can do this," Hurdle said. "I've seen him play there when I was with the Rockies. He's very athletic."
The unmasking of Martin may have only begun, with Hurdle implying that he could soon also pop up in right field, another position at which he is considered adept.
There is no indication that being promised a chance to play other positions helped attract Martin to Pittsburgh as a free agent, but there is no doubt he is enjoying the occasional returns to his baseball roots. He is a three-time All-Star catcher, in both leagues, yet Martin has never stopped looking at the greener grass on the other side of the field.
So how did Martin become a catcher, anyway?
Welcome to six degrees of Jumbo Diaz—yes, the 280-pound right-hander who had a fun ride with the Bucs in 2012 spring training and has since moved on to the Reds' organization.
An unsigned 35th-round pick of the Montreal Expos in the 2000 draft—the 1,035th overall selection, as a third baseman—Martin signed with the Dodgers after they made him a 17th-round pick in 2002, as a second baseman. Martin spent his first half-season as a pro playing third for the Rookie League Gulf Coast Dodgers. Diaz was a 19-year-old fireballer on the same team.
One day during extended camp following that 2002 season, Dodgers scouting director Logan White waved Martin over.
"He brought me in to catch one bullpen," Martin recalled. "For Jumbo Diaz. He threw like 100 [mph]. So they brought me in the cage, made me catch this guy. I guess they just saw that I had good hands, footwork, arm strength. They felt it would be a good fit for me with the Dodgers, that my bat was more in line with catching."
"When I first started catching, I had 2 1/2 years to get comfortable. I had to be uncomfortable for two years, after having been comfortable at another position. It was taking a step backward to take two steps forward.
"Overall," Martin said, "it's been a good move. Not only did I learn a new position, but it helped me learn more about the game of baseball. I'm in a situation where I feel I can have more impact on the game. You can definitely impact the game at third base. But catching—the ball's in your hand every play. On a daily basis, catching has more impact on the subtleties of the game—game-calling, blocking pitches, managing pitchers. I enjoy that.
"Sure, catching takes a greater toll on the body. But it's definitely also more fulfilling on a daily basis." (Tom Singer-MLB.com-5/07/13)
French-Canadian model/actress Marikym Hervieux has been linked to Martin since his days playing for the Dodgers. Her sister, Valerie Gagne, is former closer Eric Gagne's wife.
Though nobody hands out trophies for accomplishments through half a season, the consensus in the Pirates' clubhouse is that Russell Martin could be the team's most important piece so far, and he has contributed plenty with the bat, as well.
Martin has helped the Pirates pitching staff become one of baseball's best, despite some critical setbacks. Of the five pitchers the Pirates broke camp with in late March, only one is currently in the rotation.
Russell—a Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger Award winner, and All-Star in both leagues—has something to do with the Pirates having MLB's best record as of July 1, 2013.
"That's being echoed from visiting dugouts as well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's bringing an edge to everything he's doing. Not only behind the plate, but in the batter's box, on the bases, in the clubhouse, in meetings. He's got layers to him with postseason experience, the staffs he's been able to be a part of, the cities ... he's got some levels of toughness and experience that have been very useful in our clubhouse."
Martin has caught Cy Young Award winners and learned the craft of calling games and managing pitchers day by day throughout his lengthy career. And even with the large turnover in the rotation due to injury, Martin's mindset and approach doesn't change. He just needs to communicate effectively with his pitchers.
"The more you understand your pitchers, the better you're going to be," Martin said. (Petrella - mlb.com - 6/30/13)
April 20, 2014: The Pirates and Brewers got into a rather nasty brawl after Gerrit Cole and Carlos Gomez directed some bat flip-related chirping at one another. Brewers backup catcher Martin Maldonado was right in the middle of the brawl appeared to land the biggest punch in the skirmish. Pirates catcher Russell Martin challenged Maldonado to a charity fight in the offseason to settle the score.
2014: Russell Martin has played 1,163 career games, 10th all-time among Canadians.
And Martin became the seventh member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence at the 12th annual National Teams banquet in Toronto.
Martin joins former MVP winners Larry Walker, Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, along with Ryan Dempster, Jason Bay and Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt.
The decision to place Martin’s name on the Wall was made before he signed with the Blue Jays, based on his international (junior national team 1999-2001, one World Cup, 2003, Olympic qualifier and 2009 World Baseball Classic) and pro play, which consists of three all-star selections and seven post-season appearances in nine years.
December 2016: Russell committed to play for Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
- June 2002: Russell signed with the Dodgers, via scout Clarence Johns, out of Baseball Canada's academy. He played two years at Chipola J.C. in Florida before signing with the Dodgers for $40,000 as a 17th-rounder.
- January 20, 2009: Martin and the Dodgers avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.9 million contract.
- January 19, 2010: Russ and the Dodgers again avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a $5.05 million contract for 2010.
- December 2, 2010: The Dodgers chose not to tender Martin a contract for 2011, making him a free agent.
- December 14, 2010: Russell signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Yankees. If all incentives were met, it would add another $1.4 million.
- January 24, 2012: Martin and the Yankees avoided salary arbitration when they agreed to a $7.5 million, one-year contract. The deal was $100,000 under the midpoint between the $8.2 million he had asked for in arbitration and the $7 million the Yankees had offered when proposed salaries were exchanged the week before. Russell can also earn performance bonuses.
- November 29, 2012: Martin signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pirates.
- November 17, 2014: Russell and the Blue Jays agreed on a five-year, $82 million contract.
|Birth City:||East York, Ontario, Canada|
|Draft:||Dodgers #17 - 2002 - Out of Chipola JUCO (FL)|
Martin makes good contact. He has excellent strike-zone discipline. He used to walk more than he strikes out. But, beginning in 2013, and especially in 2015, Martin now strikes out about twice as often as he walks. The swings-and-misses are much more common, now.
He still has an excellent batting eye, exhibiting patience. He has a steady approach at the plate and sprays the ball all over the yard. (April, 2016)
Russell has a line-drive bat, hitting the ball to all fields. And power.
His swing gets a little long sometimes, though normally it is a compact, simple stroke.
In 2006, Martin joined Benito Santiago and John Roseboro as the only catchers in history with 10 or more home runs and 10 or more stolen bases in their rookie seasons.
In 2007, he led NL catchers in hits (157), homers (19), runs (87), stolen bases (21), average (.297), on-base percentage (.380), and slugging percentage (.477). The 21 steals were the most ever for a Dodgers catcher.
- Martin still works the count and will take a walk.
August 13, 2014: Martin recorded his 1,000th career hit.
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Martin's career Major League stats were: .254 batting average, 162 home runs and 1,246 hits with 656 RBI's in 4,896 at-bats.
- In 2003, he moved from third base to catcher.
- Russ is just plain built like a catcher. He's not too heavy, not too thin. He just has the classic catcher's body.
- Martin shows solid athleticism. He blocks and shifts real well, showing very good quickness and agility. He has excellent footwork.
- He calls a good game for his pitcher. He has the leadership skills you like to see in a catcher, handling the pitching staff well.
In order for pitchers to better see the signs he flashes for pitches, Martin paints his fingernails and fingertips with white Liquid Paper.
"Only for night games," he said. "I've used tape, but the Liquid Paper is easier for the pitchers to see."
Martin has excellent range. And you don't hear the word "range" often when it comes to catchers. But Russ moves a long way to block a pitch in the dirt—maybe farther than any other catcher moves sliding to stop a ball.
He also crashes into railings chasing pop flies.
In 2006, Martin threw out 25 of 96 (26 percent)—12th-best in all of MLB. And he made just six errors.
In 2007, Russell threw out 30 percent of potential basestealers.
In 2014, Martin threw out 37 attempted base stealers and finished fourth overall with a caught-stealing percentage of 39.5 as he threw out 37 of the 59 baserunners attempting to steal with him behind the plate.
In 2007, Russell won his first Gold Glove. He posted a 3.95 catcher's ERA—fourth best in the league. He threw out 30 percent of potential opposing base stealers and picked two runners off base. He was charged with 14 errors and five passed balls.
Martin was the first Dodgers catcher to win a Gold Glove since Charles Johnson in 1998 (who was also acquired via in-season trade). The only other Los Angeles Dodgers catcher to win a Gold Glove was John Roseboro in 1961 and 1966.
In 2008, Russell played 11 games at third base.
"Third base has been awesome," Martin said. "I always saw myself as a kid playing in the big leagues as a third baseman or an infielder, and I finally got that opportunity this year. It's been fun. It gives me a break from the mental grind of being behind the dish every day. And I think maybe that's why mentally, I feel good."
Martin does a really good job of framing pitches.
In 2013, Wilson named Martin the Pirates Defensive Player of the Year, surprisingly usurping Andrew McCutchen's claim to that distinction while confirming the catcher's role in the team's turnaround.
Wilson's defensive awards are derived from a set of comparative statistics and metrics, and Martin stood out in leading Major League catchers by throwing out 36 runners—a department in which the Bucs ranked last among the 30 Major League teams in 2012.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle calls Martin "the most athletic catcher I have ever been around."
"The job he has done behind the plate has been a difference maker," Hurdle said of Martin, late in the 2013 season. "It's hard to find another catcher who does as much dirty work as he's done. He's so far in front of everyone else I've ever seen."
Spring 2015: The relationship between R.A. Dickey and Russell Martin continues to be a work in progress. With just two weeks left in spring training, Martin dropped to his left knee on every pitch in an effort to handle Dickey's elusive knuckleballs.
It worked so well Martin said he will probably continue catching Dickey on one knee from now on.
"It was just something I thought about," Martin explained. "It's something I used to do with sinker-ball pitchers."
"He's been fantastic," Dickey said when asked how his relationship with Martin is progressing. "There's nothing standing in the way of my saying he can handle it [the knuckleball] now. He wants to be good at it, which is three-quarters of the battle. Whatever gives him the best chance of catching the ball in the strike zone, that's what I want," Dickey said.
"I know I can do it," Martin said. "That's what I wanted to achieve this spring. Hopefully, Dickey is comfortable I can do it."
"It's still wide open," manager John Gibbons admitted when asked whether Martin will catch Dickey during the regular season and whether the Blue Jays will carry two or three catchers to open the season. "You figure Russ will catch 130, 140 games—that's a full season for a catcher. The question is, how do we best utilize those games? Would it be more beneficial for Russ to catch Dickey, or for him, with his knowledge and his experience, to catch the other four guys?
"That's something I've been thinking about," Gibbons admitted. "We've discussed it. I think he'll do very good catching Dickey. But the question is, how do we best utilize him?"
If Martin doesn't catch Dickey, Josh Thole will.
"He [Thole] is really, really good at it," Dickey said. "He just has a gift for it." (Hawkins - MLB.com - March 21, 2015)
There was a strange sight at Rogers Centre as former Gold Glove-winning catcher Martin made an appearance at second base. Russell spent the first eight innings of the game behind the plate, but he moved to second after Ryan Goins had been lifted for a pinch-runner. That responsibility normally would have gone to Steve Tolleson, but the backup infielder wasn't available because of a strained groin.
That developed an opportunity for Martin to fill in at second base for the second time in his career. The first time he played second was for two innings with the Yankees on Aug. 20, 2011.
"We had talked about it a couple of weeks ago," Martin said of his conversations with manager John Gibbons about playing second. "We had another situation where we were a little bit short on the bench. I always knew that it was a possibility. So, it wasn't really that much of a surprise, and I know I can play in the field. I played there for a long time, so I've had plenty of reps over there and it's kind of like riding a bike."
Martin didn't escape the ninth inning without being tested. A ground ball was hit up the middle by Adam Eaton and Martin ranged to his right before making a nice flip toss to Jose Reyes to get a force at second base. It was his first career assist as a second baseman, and he looked like a natural while doing it.
The infield isn't a completely foreign concept to the 10-year veteran. He's made 18 appearances at third base and in 2002 was drafted by the Dodgers as a second baseman. He hadn't taken groundballs in years. (Chisholm - mlb.com - 5/27/15)
- October 3, 2016: "Russell's a stud. I love how he catches and calls a game. I can't stand how much he complains to the umpire. Everything he catches is a strike. And when he's hitting, everything's a ball. But what a player. To have a guy like that behind the plate for them is a game-changer. He makes that pitching staff a lot better and he can usually shut down the running game, he's phenomenal at blocking balls in the dirt. He's a shortstop behind the plate. He knows the game and how to call a game… He also knows how to throw a ball off Shin-Soo Choo's bat. That's the one thing with him. He can get a little lackadaisical." -- an AL catcher
- Russell has good speed for a catcher. He has been timed at 6.8 to 6.9 in the 60-yard dash.
As of the start of the 2009 season, Russell had broken the Dodgers record for most career stolen bases by a catcher (49).
"Most of the time, I don't really steal off of the catcher; I steal off of the pitcher," Martin said. "I'm not someone with tremendous speed, but I do try and pick my times when I can steal a base without being thrown out."
- March 6, 2010: An MRI showed a strain in the right groin that would put him on the D.L. for the start of the season.
August 4-end of 2010 season: Martin was on the D.L. after an MRI on his right hip showed a torn labrum and a fractured hip.
Russell broke his hip when he stepped awkwardly with his right leg after being tagged out at home plate in the second inning of the Dodgers game vs. the Padres. Martin came in standing up and ran through the plate as Padres catcher Nick Hundley tagged him. As he reached the grass to the right of home plate, Martin turned to look back, and that was when he took the fateful step, jamming the top of his leg into the cartilage-like material that insulates the inside of the hip joint.
His season was over. Doctors told Martin he suffered a hip subluxation, the same injury that is believed to have led to the premature end of the two-sport career of Bo Jackson. But Bo did not take the best care of his injury. It is believed the fracture will heal naturally for Martin.
December 14, 2010: During Russell's physical while preparing to sign with the Yankees, a small meniscus tear was discovered in his right knee. It was repaired three days later—a minor surgery.
It still bothered him a little at the start of 2011 spring training.
April 25-May 22, 2014: Martin was on the D.L. with a strained left hamstring. He then flew back to Pittsburgh for an MRI.
- May 8-20, 2017: Martin was on the DL with left shoulder nerve irritation.
- Aug 9-Sept. 12, 2017: Martin was on the DL with right hamstring strain.