It wasn't long after Russell Martin first strapped on the shin guards for his Major League debut last May that the Dodgers found out just what they had in their new kid-faced catcher.
Some say it became evident in the very first game, at Dodger Stadium, when Martin lined a two-run double into right field in his second big-league at-bat, then stuffed Milwaukee's Corey Koskie on a play at the plate a couple of innings later.
Some remember his mound showdown with Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe later in the year, when Martin told his overheated starter, in words maybe not this nice, that he wasn't leaving until he calmed the heck down.
Still others tell the story of a dugout dressing-down he gave an infielder who was a little tardy covering the bag for an on-a-rope throw down to second base. All of those instances proved eye-opening to people in Los Angeles -- if not elsewhere, still -- especially considering that they came from an otherwise unassuming 23-year-old who was drafted as an infielder.
"He," Dodgers manager Grady Little says of his catcher, in the loftiest of baseball terms, "is a dirtbag."
And then, after showing a sly smile, Little explains in his gravelly voice: "He's a baseball player."
Donovan goes on to favorably compare Martin to Joe Mauer and Brian McCann. And although Mauer is clearly in a class by himself, I wouldn't want any other catcher for the Dodgers except Martin. (And it seems like just yesterday I was saying the same thing about Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca.)
There's something about taking pride in a guy who came up through the farm systemAHEMjamesloney. Martin clearly is the leader of this team for the foreseeable future.