By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
There’s a couple of hundred people in the stands at the Rogers Centre, and 15 of them are here just for Eric Martin. Each time his name is called to step up to the plate, there’s some scattered clapping and whistles from the general direction of his fan club. He’s a 16-year-old celebrity.
Martin’s family has travelled from all over Ontario to watch the outfielder/pitcher play at Tournament 12 this weekend. The tournament will highlight the best amateur baseball talent across Canada with college eligibility. Martin is from Kitchener, Ont., and plays with the Great Lake Canadians baseball club.
He says he’s happy his 15 family members are here to watch him play.
“Its pretty cool, it’s a really nice feeling having a supportive family. It really helps keep you from getting nervous,” said Martin.
Among his fan club are his parents, grandparents, as well as his great grandmother. She’s celebrating her 93rd birthday at the Rogers Centre to watch him play. There’s no birthday cake here, but there’s lots of hotdogs, baseball, and most importantly her great grandson.
When she spots him some 40 rows down on the field, she lifts a hand and waves. A “happy 93rd birthday” balloon sits beside her chair.
The best amateur baseball talent in Canada needs the best fans.
Martin is glad that his great grandmother is one of them.
“Its amazing just having her here, she’s so nice and she’s so sweet,” he said.
Also among Martin’s 15 supporters is his mom. She says that it’s great to see him get the opportunity to play at T12.
“It’s very amazing it's awesome for him to have this experience. To be in the Blue Jays dugout and to play on that field, it's a very special and unique situation.”
Martin is playing on the “Futures Navy” team, compiled of talented athletes from across Canada with at least two years of high school remaining. He still remembers the day he found out he would be representing the Futures team at the tournament.
“I was ecstatic, I was so happy just getting the opportunity to do this. I know that there aren’t too many opportunities like this in a lifetime,” he said.
The 6’5” outfielder/pitcher has been playing ball for seven years, and his mom has seen the majority of his games over that span. Now she gets to see him take the field where the pros do, and there’s mixed emotions.
“I’m very excited, I hope he plays well,” she said. "I’m also a little nervous for him because nerves can get to you at this level never doing this before, so I just hope he does well and has a good time.”
Martin says he’s going to do his best to make the most of his time at the tournament, where he will start out playing in the same field Jose Bautista does.
“It’s very cool, not too many people get to do this so you really take it and try to soak it in and learn from all the coaches,” he says.
“I’m hoping to win the championship, to make some friends and just have fun,” he says. “Hit hard, run fast, and play good.”