The monsoon rain that swept through First National Bank Field Sunday was a surprise, but the news after the game’s cancellation was not.
The Pirates promoted Mason Martin, the Hoppers’ slugging first baseman, to High A Bradenton.
It was inevitable after the numbers Martin, only 20 years old, put up here. In 82 games he hit .262 with 23 homers, 19 doubles, three triples and 83 RBIs. He was in the lineup for Sunday’s game against Lakewood, hitting third, but the Hoppers never got to bat. After starting pitcher Osvaldo Bido retired the BlueClaws in order on seven pitches, the grounds crew rolled out the tarp to cover the infield.
What appeared to be a pop-up thunderstorm turned into a monsoon and ultimately washed out the game. Since it was the last time the teams were scheduled to meet (after 22 times in 88 games), it will not be made up.
The sheer raw power of Martin’s left-handed swing prompted the move. He had numerous highlights, including homers in five straight games in April. He showed a memorable flair for the dramatic on May 19 at home when he blasted a pair of walk-off, three-run homers to win both games of a doubleheader against Lakewood.
In his last appearance in First National Bank Field on Saturday, Martin crushed a long homer to right field that cleared the end of the arch on the scoreboard and hit the fourth story of the new construction across Eugene St.
That was in game one. In the second game, he smashed a long homer to left field, part of his newly-found power to the opposite field.
Hitting coach Chris Petersen was effusive in his praise of what Martin accomplished here.
“He’s a real pro and will be great for team chemistry (in Bradenton),” Petersen said. “He’s definitely grown as a player and as a young man. He wasn’t chasing records. He tried for good at-bats that produced runs and left his teammates in a better position after his at-bats. I loved working with him.”
Martin didn’t chase records, but he still got onto two of the Hoppers’ all-time Top 10 lists. His 23 homers tie him for fifth place with Viosergy Rosa. Had he stayed, Martin would have moved past Logan Morrison (24), Mark Canha (25) and Brad McCann (28) and possibly threatened Giancarlo Stanton’s team record of 39.
The 83 RBIs place Martin in eighth place. He trailed second-place Stanton by just 14 RBIs and might have approached the team record of 106 held by McCann.
I talked with Martin Saturday night and asked him if he was disappointed that he hadn’t been promoted, especially since teammates Rodolfo Castro and Lolo Sanchez had been moved up.
“That’s a tough question,” he admitted. “I’m happy for those guys; they deserved it. I can’t control moving up. All I can do is go out and be relentless.
“I’m trying to be great at baseball no matter what level I’m playing. As long as I’m here I’ll go about my job like a professional and play each game like my hair is on fire.”
The Hoppers won’t be able to replace Martin’s power with one player. The player left on the roster with the most home runs is Fabricio Macias, with seven.
It was the kind of news that everyone knew was coming, but in a way it was bittersweet. Moving players up is a positive part of player development.
“We’re happy on the outside,” one staff member said. “But we’re crying on the inside.”