Blue Jays’ Martin: ‘We’re just a bunch of kids’

Baseball Central at Noon conversation on the need for the Blue Jays pitchers to start busting the Royals hitters inside, because they hit so well for contact and don’t strike out much.

Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin recently sat down with Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford for an exclusive interview.

Here, in the first of a three-part Q & A we’re featuring on this week, the 32-year-old backstop talks video games, that crucial home run on Sept. 23, and why he doesn’t smile when he rounds the bases.

In Part 2 (Oct. 20) and Part 3 (Oct. 21), Martin talks about what it’s like to pick off runners, why he has such a good relationship with Dioner Navarro, and why pitch-framing is all about “funnelling.”

Who shakes you off the most?
I would say David Price.

Really? Maybe you’re OK with that. He’s pretty good…
Absolutely. He’s really good.

Do you think it’s because you’re working together for the first time, or is it just his style?
I think he has an idea of what he wants to do every pitch. He doesn’t shake me off that much, but he has an instinctual feel. Before he’s even set, he knows what he wants to do and he’s waiting for the sign. A lot of other guys will just follow which way I’m going.

Do catchers get enough credit?
Some do, some don’t.

Do you?
I feel like I do now. I’ve gotten a lot of love, so I can’t complain. But sometimes the catcher can be considered the offensive lineman of baseball, you know what I mean?

Where does this season rank in terms of fun you’ve had playing this game?
I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun playing baseball, and there are a lot of reasons. One of them is being home in Canada, playing baseball here and enjoying the summer in Canada. I haven’t had a summer in Canada since I was 17. And there’s how we’ve been playing. It’s fun to be on a team that has fun, plays hard and wins games. It’s a good combination.

Any time you walk into this clubhouse, you’re bound to see someone playing with a remote-control car, or riding a scooter, or playing video games.
[Laughs.] Yeah. We’re just a bunch of kids—seriously. Nobody’s grown up yet. I like to compete, so I like to play video games. We have a little Xbox NHL competition going on with the team.

I hope you’re winning, being Canadian and all.
No. I thought I’d have an edge, but I really don’t. I’m one of the top guys on the team. I’m definitely tough to beat. But there are some good players, surprisingly. If we took the game on ice for real, it’d be no contest. [Laughs.]

Who beats you regularly?
Nobody beats me regularly, but Price is a good player. Mark Lowe’s good. Brett Cecil plays. Even Liam Hendriks, the Aussie, plays. He’s actually a Habs fan, too.

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Can you take me back to your home run against the Yankees on Sept. 23? That was big.
I wish I could. I don’t have a time machine.

Oh boy.
OK. It was a good battle. I got into a situation where I got two strikes, got back in the count a little bit. The previous pitch was a fastball just off the plate, away. I think the pitcher wanted it, almost looked like he was starting to walk toward the dugout. Umpire said, “Not so fast.” The next pitch, I think he tried to go fastball in. I was just trying to hit the ball off the sweet spot. A homer at that point with two strikes wasn’t on my mind. It came down the middle and I took a good swing.

You didn’t smile while you rounded the bases.
Yeah. I think that’s one of my traits: When I’m in the zone, I don’t really smile.

Later, it must have sunk in how big that hit was.
What I thought was cool was all the different broadcasts. You have the Yankees commentators who are like: “Oh. No.” Not so happy. I heard the French one; that one was pretty good. “Russell! Russell! Russell! Russell! Quebec is dancing! Canada is dancing!” [Laughs.] But my favourite one was the soccer guys. They were showing the game on the soccer channel, and the guy, in an English accent, he’s like, [editor’s note: Martin breaks out his English accent] “Oh my goodness!” It was unreal. He breaks it down so nice. He’s like, [English accent again] “That’s perfection!” [Laughs.] “It’s so poetic and beautiful. It’s unbelievable.”

So you’re saying you watch your highlights.
Yes, of course. I loved it.

This interview appears in the current issue of Sportsnet magazine.

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