Edgar Martinez tours Hall of Fame, thanks fans again

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — It took Edgar Martinez a decade on the ballot to reach the pinnacle of baseball. A visit to the Hall of Fame on Monday reaffirmed his appreciation of being selected for induction.

“The fans have supported me from the beginning, when I started playing in Seattle,” Martinez said after touring baseball’s shrine. “It’s a special relationship between the fans and me. I think they really appreciate that I stayed there.

“Their support has been amazing. It means a lot to me, to make it in as a Mariner, and it’s going to be a special time when they show up here in July.”

Martinez is the second player selected for induction who plans to have a Mariners logo on his plague. He’ll join Ken Griffey Jr., who until this year had the highest vote percentage in history at 99.3% in 2016. Griffey was topped by Mariano Rivera, a unanimous selection in January. Also elected were pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina. Lee Smith and Harold Baines were elected in December by a veterans committee. All six will be inducted in July.

During his tour Monday, Martinez stopped in front of a display of Puerto Rican superstar Roberto Clemente’s jersey and reflected on his own baseball journey.

“I was about 9 years old, and my aunt was watching what probably were highlights of Roberto Clemente (in the 1971) World Series, and he homered and she was just screaming,” Martinez recalled. “I remember after that I got really interested in the game. Right away I went outside and started hitting rocks with a broomstick, and I kind of fell in love with the game.

“Clemente became someone I wanted to emulate,” said Martinez, who was born in New York City but moved to Puerto Rico at a young age. “I wanted to be like him. He became a role model. It’s like that for pretty much everyone in Puerto Rico.”

Martinez also displayed interest in batting artifacts on exhibit. He marveled at the visual display of Ted Williams’ strike zone and was awed by Babe Ruth’s 1927 bat, which features notches for each home run Ruth hit during his historic 60-homer season.

“When I was playing, I used heavier bats for practice but lighter ones for games,” said Martinez, who made it a habit to use lighter bats later in the season. “If I was seeing the ball well, I still had to be able to meet the ball.”

The highlight of the tour was the hat Clemente wore beneath his batting helmet when he recorded his 3,000th hit. Martinez took the cap in his gloved hands and was quiet for a moment.

“He meant so much to Puerto Rico,” Martinez said. “He was a hero to all of us, young and old. Even just holding it, you can feel the power. It’s almost like it has some magic in it.”