MLB great Pedro Martínez wants Dominicans to seek opportunities beyond baseball
Hall of Fame baseball player Pedro Martínez sits down for an interview with The Hill in at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, February 8, 2023.
Legendary Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez rose out of poverty after he and his brother were spotted by baseball scouts in the outskirts of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
While the promise of becoming the next Martínez has attracted millions of young Dominicans to the sport, he wants them to choose school instead of baseball.
“You need a lot of talent, and in so many words, to be chosen by God to become a ball player,” Martínez told The Hill.
“Everyone can study. That never goes away as a career. A career [that] goes on, and depending on what you want to do, you can keep evolving for others, for the future. It gives me a feeling of safety.”
Martínez was on Capitol Hill last week as part of the 5th annual Dominicans on the Hill conference led by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), the first Dominican-born federal legislator.
The daylong event in the Capitol Visitors Center featured drop-ins from an array of top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Attendants to the event also received letters of salutation from Schumer and Gillibrand, and from the top Democratic House leaders, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.).
Though the event’s theme this year was “Dominicans batting with bases loaded,” the guest speakers mostly focused their remarks on praise for Espaillat, a former undocumented immigrant.
“One of the great things about New York is it’s home to the first Dominican American ever elected to Congress, our own Adriano Espaillat,” Schumer told the audience, who burst out in a minute-long standing ovation, though Espaillat had left the room momentarily.
The event featured two Dominican baseball greats: Martínez, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, and Juan Marichal, inducted in 1983.
But the focus was on Espaillat’s political accomplishments and on the Dominican Americans and Dominicans who filled the 450-seat Congressional Auditorium.
“That gives me a lot of pride to see that our country, in spite of being so, so small, has borne so many fruits, not just in sport, in baseball, where it’s well known that pound for pound we are the greatest producers of ball players,” Martínez said.
“But to also see that in politics, in Congress, all over, we’re seeing Dominicans — at the White House, everywhere — that gives me a lot of pride because we won’t just have to look for open doors through a sport or through a one-off situation that happens, but now we can seek it out through education, that this country, the United States, is opening the doors to opportunities in different sectors. That gives us as immigrants a great opportunity to choose new things,” he added.
While Martínez touted avenues other than baseball for immigrants to succeed in the United States, he said he’s not done with the sport.
“I’m still very wrapped up in baseball. I still think I have a lot to offer, and since I’m on the first stage of my retirement, I think I still have a lot to offer and teach, and make the game easier, open doors to new youngsters,” Martínez said.
Part of his work to channel both sport and classroom education to Dominican youth is done through the Pedro Martínez Foundation, a charity he runs with his wife, Carolina Martínez.
Among other projects in the Dominican Republic, the foundation runs a community center in Manoguayabo, just outside of Santo Domingo, where Martínez and his brother were discovered by baseball scouts.
Martínez said the foundation’s focus is to expand educational opportunities for Dominicans.
“The main step our country needs to open doors throughout the world is education. If we’re able to keep up on education, we can achieve everything else,” he said.
Martínez also seemed energized with the enthusiastic crowd in the auditorium.
“But all these people here, all these people representing our country, Dominicans on the Hill, fill us with hope. We can choose something else that doesn’t have to be through a sport, you don’t have to be an athlete or anything like that. Get educated, search for the role you want, and we thank God and the United States for the opportunity to come in this role,” he said.
“We have everything to offer to the United States as immigrants. We are hard working, we are honest, we can offer other skills — medicine, anything through education.”
Espaillat, who grew up in the Dominican stronghold of Washington Heights in New York, attributed the interest in the event to Dominican Americans’ increasing numbers and active political participation.
“Raw numbers, 2.4 million, that’s not a lot but it’s — you know, they love politics, they love sports and they’re moving forward,” Espaillat said.
“They’re making an impact wherever they are, whether it’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Providence, Rhode Island, or just, you know, Washington Heights. They’re making a difference there and the elected officials know that.”
—Updated at 4:55 p.m.