Martinez happy to see Cleveland

Published Jun. 8, 2010 12:03 a.m. EDT

Cuddling with his 5-year-old son while sitting in the opposing dugout, Victor Martinez fondly remembered a place where he had some of the best years of his life.

He felt at home.

Martinez was back in Cleveland on Monday, returning to the city where he began his major league career for the first time since the All-Star catcher was traded to the Boston Red Sox last July. Martinez's smile was as wide as ever during an emotional homecoming at Progressive Field.

``I left a place I will always have in my heart, a place where I grew up as a player,'' Martinez said before the Red Sox opened a four-game series against the Indians. ``But they traded me to a good place, a good team and I am really, really happy.''


Last July, Martinez and his son, Victor, both broke down in tears in Cleveland's clubhouse after learning the 31-year-old had been dealt before the deadline. They never wanted to leave.

There was no crying this time, but Martinez said it wasn't easy coming back.

``It is tough. I will never forget that day of the trade,'' he said. ``I was very sad. It's very emotional coming back here and a very weird feeling to go into a different clubhouse. I got to see all those guys, my friends, and shake hands with everybody I know here. I spent so much time here and I am very excited to be back.

``It has been great in Boston. They have great fans, a great ballclub and a full house every night. But I miss Cleveland, too.''

Martinez spent parts of eight seasons with the Indians. One of Cleveland's most popular players, he made three All-Star teams during a time when the Indians were among the AL's elite. Times have changed and his former club is now undergoing a massive rebuild just three years removed from a deep postseason run.

Martinez will never forget what he experienced with the Indians.

``There are so many memories it is tough to think of them all. I guess making the playoffs and winning the division are the best,'' he said. ``You look back at '07 and that team that we had, and three years later, there is pretty much nobody left.''

During his first trip back as a member of the Red Sox, Martinez is staying with a family in Warren, Ohio, that hosted him when he first came to the U.S. and played for Mahoning Valley in the minor league. He'll make the daily drive to Cleveland while in town.

Now that he's part of it, Martinez has a better appreciation of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. When Boston and New York meet, Martinez said it's still strange going up against CC Sabathia, his former batterymate and close friend.

``It is very weird to face CC,'' he said. ``I was his catcher for so long. I've done OK against him, not too good. I got my 1,000th hit against him, a two-run home run. Maybe I will get him to sign the ball sometime.''