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When you’re a little kid, and your dad is famous, you don’t really get it. As far as you know, he’s just … Dad.
But then at some point something happens that makes you see things differently. For me, that moment was when I was 11 years old.
I was living in the Dominican Republic at the time, spending every day with my uncles and cousins on the baseball fields in the town of Don Gregorio. That summer of 2010, we all decided that we’d travel to Southern California for the MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium. My dad was a member of the Texas Rangers and had been voted in as a starter, so it seemed like it would be a fun trip.
I knew my dad was a major league baseball player back then, of course. And I knew that he was good — that he could hit a ball farther than anyone I’d ever seen, and that he could make throws that would go all the way from deep in the outfield to home plate on the fly.
But that was basically it.
So we get to the stadium and I’m hanging out with my dad, and suddenly all these people rush up to him and start saying how much they love him. Just out of nowhere. People he didn’t even know.
“We love you, Vlad! We love you! You’re the best!”
Some others are saying things like, “We need you to come back!” They’re begging him: “Please … please … come back! We miss you so much. We love you.”
I didn’t understand what was going on.
A few little kids came up to him crying.
They were actually crying. Real tears.
And all throughout the day, this kept happening. Over and over again, different groups of people telling my dad that they loved and missed him.
I remember being very sad about it at the time — just seeing all these people who respected my father and missed him so much. But, mostly, it didn’t make sense to me.
When I asked him about it a little bit later in the day, he sat me down and explained to me that he played in Anaheim for the five previous years and that the fans there really cared for him.
That’s when it hit me.
That’s when I realized just how famous my dad had become. And after that day I kind of put two and two together. It was right around that time that I also realized not every kid had Pedro Martínez as his godfather.
Even though I was born in Montreal when my father was playing for the Expos, I only lived in Canada for a few years before moving back to the Dominican Republic with my mom and my grandparents.
It was hard being away from my dad so much, but from the time I was very young we spoke on the phone every single day. He was always there to listen, or to help me deal with challenges. And, of course, he gave me advice about baseball. Not just about hitting or fielding, but also about playing hard and being a good teammate and showing leadership. He always told me to keep my head high, and that if I worked hard I could overcome any problem. No matter what the situation, he always kept a positive attitude. That really rubbed off on me.
And from the time I was very young, I remember always imitating what my dad did on the field.
I just kind of watched what him and tried to do the same things I saw him do. I even picked up on the things he did before games, and I started doing those things each time I played.
He taped his feet before games … so I taped my feet before games.
He didn’t wear batting gloves … so I didn’t wear batting gloves.
He stood a certain way in the batter’s box … so I took the same stance.
It was never a spoken thing. My dad never told me to put tape on my feet, or made me hit a certain way. I just watched him and followed his lead.
When my dad would return home for the winter, after the major league season had ended, those times were the best.
He’d come to all my games and watch me play.
He wasn’t one to make a big show of it. He’d just sit off to the side, quietly taking everything in, but it was wonderful to have him there watching me do what I loved.
Then, after each game — no matter how things went — my dad would respond in the exact same way.
He’d take me to the beach!
Win or lose, 4–4 or 0–4 … we’d hop in the car and meet up with my uncles and cousins and other family members, and we’d all have fun together at the ocean.
If my team had won that day, it would be like one big celebration out there on the beach, with music and food and everything.
And if we lost, or if I had a bad game, or made a few errors….
It would still be like one big celebration out there on the beach, with music and food and everything.
“It’s just a game,” my dad would tell me if things hadn’t gone my way. “There will be another one tomorrow. Now lift your head up and have some fun.”
To this day, I still tape my feet before every game. I still use that same batting stance, and I still talk with my dad each day.
The no-batting-gloves thing eventually went away — I just feel more comfortable using them now — and I also try to be a little more selective at the plate than Dad was. But other than that, not a ton has changed for me when it comes to how I approach baseball.
Over the past few years, more people have started paying attention to me and calling me a prospect and wanting to talk to me, but I’ve just been focused on playing the game the right way — the way my dad taught me.
Work hard. Support your teammates. Always try to get better.
I’m doing everything I can to make my family happy, and to get the fans in Toronto excited for the future … and, of course, to make my dad proud.
Because he has made me so proud for as long as I can remember, and I want to return the favor.
A lot of people ask me if I got angry, or sad, when my dad didn’t get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last winter.
To tell you the truth, it didn’t really bother me.
I remember that when my father found out about the voting, he wasn’t sad about it at all. No matter how life treats him, or how things are going, he always has a good disposition. He’s just always about being positive. And he took that news in stride … so I did the same.
He didn’t let it bother him. So neither did I.
We both just stayed positive and were thankful for all the good things we have in our lives.
But this time around … you know what? It would be really great if he got in this year.
It wouldn’t make me any more proud of him, or make him seem more important to me.
It’s more simple than that.
I want to see him make it in because he deserves it — he put up the numbers, and he played the game the right way. But I also want to see him get in because I know it would make him so happy. That he’d really appreciate the honor, and be so thankful to have been recognized as one of the game’s all-time greats.
And if my dad is fortunate enough to be voted in, and he gets that call a few weeks from now, I can tell you one thing for sure….
We’re going to the beach. And it’s gonna be one big party!