Corey Martinez arrived in Cooperstown for a baseball tournament mired in a terrible slump. The power-hitting first baseman and pitcher was impatient at the plate, losing his balance and sapping himself of his strength.
He spent the days before the tournament prepping with his coach, former major leaguer Lance McCullers, whose Tampa, Florida, AAU team also included Lance McCullers Jr., a future MLB first-round pick.
“Corey hit nine home runs that one week up there in Cooperstown,” Ron Martinez, Corey’s father, said. “Corey will never forget that.”
Baseball was in Corey’s blood, and the current Florida State center/guard might have been the next Martinez to have a professional career. Ron played in the Little League World Series and in the Phillies’ organization before he hurt his elbow throwing for the head scout the day before reporting to Philadelphia. His career ended when doctors wanted to surgically cut out some of the ulnar nerve in the elbow, a procedure with a 50 percent success rate that could leave his arm partially paralyzed.
Ron’s brother Randy played Class A ball with the Mariners’ organization. Corey’s great uncle Arnold Martinez played on the Reds’ Class A team and also entertained troops as part of a military team during the Korean War. Corey’s cousin’s godfather is Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
But Corey’s baseball career ended a year after that deluge of homers in Cooperstown. He had been playing the game since he was 4 years old and had burned out on it, Ron said.
After a decade between the white chalk lines of the diamond, Corey wanted to step between the white painted lines of the gridiron. One day, Corey called Ron at the firehouse he worked at and told him he was quitting baseball. No longer excluded because of height and weight restrictions, he joined the Cambridge Christian School football team as an eighth-grader.
Opponents wish he stuck to baseball. Ron still has a video of Corey, wearing No. 95, lining up in the backfield for Cambridge and leaking out to catch a pass in the flat. Two hapless middle school kids just bounced off Corey as he jogged into the end zone.
The next season, he was a left tackle at storied Tampa Catholic. A few years later he held scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame. In the summer of 2013, he committed to Florida State.
As a redshirt freshman, Corey has started at center for the Seminoles’ first three games. He’s also practicing with the second team at left guard, the position he committed to play at Florida State.
“It’s a big transition going from left tackle to center, but Corey, from what he tells me, really enjoys it. He feels like he’s more involved in the game having to make the line calls. It’s still going to be a learning process, considering he never played center,” Ron said.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Martinez is doing well in his new role, and defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample, who routinely practices directly against Martinez, sees a player who will contribute in Tallahassee for years.
“He’s really mature for his age. He takes his job really seriously. That’s really admirable,” Lawrence-Stample said. “He has a good work ethic, and he’s going to be able to play a lot for us now and in the future.”
Martinez longs for the baseball diamond occasionally, however. While walking out of the football facility one day during preseason camp, he snapped a photo of Florida State’s baseball stadium and texted Ron he misses the game.
With his genes, he’d probably catch up quickly if he picked up a bat again. But he’s become too valuable an asset for a young Florida State offensive line.
“He’s a very knowledgeable guy,” Fisher said, “and he’s going to be a heckuva player.”