Baseball is known as America’s pastime. The game was the most popular sport in America in the 19th and 20th century. Regardless of football’s popularity in our country today, America will always be represented by baseball. As you may have heard, in the Great White North of Canada, hockey rules all. Hockey has caught on in a big way in the United States, while baseball has made its mark on Canada as well. The Pirates new catcher, Russell Martin, is one of many Canadians that enjoy both.
Growing up in Chelsea, Quebec, Canada, Martin was like many children who learned the game of hockey at a younger age.
“I played when I was 12 through 15. I started off as a defenseman, but I moved to right winger in my second year, though,” Martin said. “I was more of a grinder type. I never really had great hands.”
At the young age, Martin played for N.D.G. Hockey and his future athleticism was already evident to his peers. Instead of chasing the Canadian dream, though, Martin stuck with baseball.
“I still go out and skate to stay in shape that way. I can skate really well, it’s just the hands don’t necessarily follow,” Martin said with a smile. “I have a decent wrister, but I never really thought of taking it to the next level. Baseball came much easier to me.”
Despite Martin playing hockey when he was younger, he said he never truly became a fan of the NHL until he reached the big leagues. Martin said after having the opportunity to watch the players live, he gained a new appreciation for the sport.
“I wasn’t a Nordiques fan (laughing). I wasn’t a huge hockey fan growing up, but I would watch games here and there. I’ve been following the NHL a bit more over the past five years. Ever since I got to the big leagues, I’ve become a bigger fan,” Martin said. “It’s probably that I can actually afford to go to the games now. I wasn’t able to before so I never really got to experience it. You become more of a fan after you get to see some live games. After seeing the game live and seeing the guys go out there and play hard with the energy, that’s when you become a fan.”
While Martin has been in Pittsburgh just over a week, he wasted no time showing his hometown what his residence is like. A day after the Pirate opening day loss to the Chicago Cubs, a television crew from Martin’s hometown visited him in Pittsburgh.
To give the people in Canada a better sense of Pittsburgh, the crew followed Martin around all day on Tuesday. Martin took the crew to Consol Energy Center to meet the Penguins, watch morning skate and tour the facility before bringing them over to PNC Park.
“There’s a TV crew from back home that spent the day with me. I brought them over here [PNC Park] to show them the facilities here and took them to the clubhouse and around the park,” Martin explained. “I wanted to give the people back home an inside look of how it is here. In the morning before we came to the ballpark, we went and met the Penguins. I was a flashback from Quebec and I some of the baseball fans on the team and coach Bylsma. It was a great experience.”
Despite playing in Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium, Martin said Pittsburgh has two of the finest stadiums that he’s ever seen.
“It was my first time at the arena. It’s a really nice facility,” Martin said. “I went into the locker room and saw some of the guys. They have a great team. Between Consol Energy and here [PNC Park], Pittsburgh has two of the finer stadiums I’ve seen.”
While Martin wasn’t a Nordiques fan growing, he was a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Don’t worry though Pittsburgh fans. Martin said now that he’s in Pittsburgh, he’ll be rooting for the Penguins.
“(Laughs) As long as they aren’t playing the Montreal Canadiens, I’ll root for them [Penguins],” Martin said with a laugh. “They have great guys on the team so they are easy to cheer for.”
Photo Credits: Newsday