Detroit — The Tigers season won’t end until Sept. 30. But Victor Martinez’s season, and his career, will end Saturday.
Martinez has decided to play the final game of his distinguished 16-year career and have his final at-bat Saturday in front of Tigers’ fans at Comerica Park.
“I think that’s just me thanking the Detroit Tigers fans and everybody here,” he said. “To play the last game of my career here, it’s just one of the ways to thank everybody. I think that would be fair for everybody.”
“It means a lot,” Martinez said, of the Tigers’ gesture and the tribute the Indians gave him in Cleveland last weekend. “I am going to leave this game with no regrets. I did everything I could on the field, and for someone to recognize you, for me, that makes me feel pretty good.”
Martinez, 39, will have his entire family here for the ceremony, including his mother, sister, brother and niece, who haven’t traveled around with him as much as his son, Victor Jose, has over the years.
“They were here with me at the beginning,” he said. “I think they deserve to be here at the end, too.”
Martinez will still travel with the team to Minnesota and Milwaukee, but he will be serving more in a role of mentor and adviser — a role he has flourished in this season.
“He’s just a special guy who has had a great career,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Not just a good career, a great career. I’ve watched him from both sides, from the visitors’ dugout and from the home dugout.
“I’m pretty lucky.”
Martinez, Gardenhire and general manager Al Avila sat down to discuss how and when Martinez would end his career. Martinez, Gardenhire said, wanted to make sure the younger players got as many at-bats as they could in the final seven games.
“That is Victor being Victor right there,” Gardenhire said. “Heck, maybe he will manage.”
Martinez will finish his career with 1,973 games, 969 with the Tigers. He will go down as one of the best switch-hitters in the game and one of the five most productive offensive players from Venezuela.
“I grew up watching baseball in Venezuela,” he said. “When I got signed by the Indians, my signing bonus was $8,000. I came here with a dream. I said, ‘OK, let’s see if I can make it.’ For me to be able to play 16 years and have this kind of career — what can I say. I just tried to do thing right and play the game hard.”
He will retire to his cattle ranch in central Florida and his immediate plans are to spend all his time catching up on lost time with family. But his eight years in Detroit won’t be far from his heart.
“We had some good moments,” he said. “The playoff runs we went through here. We had some really good teams. Unfortunately, we didn’t accomplish the final goal – we didn’t win a championship. But I’ve had so many great moments here.
“I had the best year of my career here in Detroit (2014 when he was runner-up for the American League MVP award). I will take a lot from this city and keep it with me.”