University of Miami third baseman junior Harold Martinez is stubborn.
Since his freshman year in 2009, he started all 122 games he played in. In blowout affairs, he would be one of the few starters to remain in the game; he always wanted to stay on the diamond to get better.
Martinez grew up playing with a taped ball in Cuba, where his love for baseball began. Nothing could interfere with that until the 123rd game of his career.
The 2010 second team All-ACC selection was forced to watch the Canes lose to the Florida Gators 4-3 in 10 innings in game two of the Super Regionals from his hospital bedroom.
“It was the worst thing ever seeing the game, we were one out away and I’m in the hospital,” Martinez said in an exclusive interview with The Miami Hurricane. “It was one of the worst times in my life not being there. I wanted to be there for my team. That’s what you dream of being in that situation. That’s what every good baseball player wants, to help contribute in an elimination game but I couldn’t do anything. Everything happens for a reason.”
Martinez had a severe injury; he had a hematoma in his left shin. His leg was black and after game one of the Super Regionals, he couldn’t even walk to the shower. There was major swelling the size of a grape fruit.
“I had a big hematoma after a while because I kept hitting foul balls off my shin. It just got infected. At the end of the season we had to rush me to the hospital because it was about to burst,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s father, Alexis, knows how difficult it was for his son to miss the most important game.
“We watched those seven errors from the hospital and it was so frustrating,” he said. “He came to Miami to go to Omaha, it was his dream but Harold couldn’t do anything. He was in serious pain. In the beginning you think about all possibilities, it was scary but he’s fine now and the doctors and staff did a good job.”
Martinez’s injury developed when, midway through the season, he hit a foul ball off his left shin. He didn’t make much of it and neither did the coaches or trainers because Martinez had an impressive sophomore campaign. He blasted a team-leading 21 home runs and tallied 69 RBI. He hit .295 and made a great middle of the order combination with former Hurricane standout Yasmani Grandal.
But his shin got progressively worse as he kept hitting foul balls in the same area of his left leg. At the end of the season he didn’t even take batting practice and would only play in games to reduce the stress.
Martinez had to watch the Canes commit seven errors in the season finale and saw their archrival, the Florida Gators, march on to the College World Series. UM’s season was over, and there was a chance Martinez’s baseball career was over.
“[The doctors] were scared it was going to hit my bone quickly,” said Martinez, who spent four days in a Gainesville hospital. “They were trying to figure out what the infection was so I had to stay in the hospital a couple of days. I was receiving antibiotics. You never know what could have happened, my leg was turning black so who knows what could have happened, maybe my leg would have been chopped off. I’m just fortunate it was contained early.”
Martinez now declares himself 100 percent healthy. He spent the summer rehabilitating at UM and resting at his house. He resumed baseball activities earlier this month.
“I just need to work on my timing because I haven’t done a lot of baseball activities,” the potential first round draft pick said. “I haven’t seen pitching in four or five months. Physically I’ll be fine and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.