By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Ray Poitevint worked six decades at his profession as a scout and Expos legend Dennis Martinez stood out more than any other pitcher he inked to a contract.
"Of all the people I signed, Dennis was the best person and the best pitcher,'' Poitevint told me in late 2015 for a full-length story I did on Martinez for a SABR National Pastime publication called Baseball in the Sunshine State.
"I don't like to broadcast it but Dennis was always first-class. He's something special. He went through a lot of hardships. He did it on his own,'' Poitevint said.
Poitevint signed Martinez to a $3,000 signing bonus for the Baltimore Orioles Dec. 10, 1973 after watching the pitcher throw an extra-special game for his host country Nicaragua at the Féderacion Mundial de Béisbol Amateur World Series.
Nicaragua lost 1-0 to the U.S. in 10 innings and Martinez's complete-game performance prompted Poitevint to sidle up to Martinez to see if he wanted to sign with Baltimore.
"It was the last time people in my home country would see me pitch,'' Martinez said in an interview 18 months ago.
Poitevint signed a vast number of major leaguers to contracts during his time scouting players in the Far East and Central, Latin and North America. His other signees included Eddie Murray, B.J. Surhoff, Teddy Higuera, Juan Nieves and Tomo Ohka, another former Expos pitcher.
Poitevint, 87, died June 10 near Los Angeles of complications related to surgery, said his daughter Lisa Rae. A memorial will be held June 22.
Poitevint served in the Korean War and played semi-pro ball in Japan. While in Japan, he married the daughter of a Japanese judge, whose friends included owners of Japanese baseball teams. The story goes that he quit a high-paying sales job to become a scout for the Orioles in 1961.
Twelve years later, Poitevint found a diamond in Martinez in Managua. And clearly, Martinez was special to Poitevint.
"In those days, Dennis could be signed by anybody,'' Poitevint said. "We didn't have a lot of money to give. The maximum was $3,000. It wasn't very much but the main thing is that I signed a lot of good pitchers and Dennis has done the best.''
Martinez was with the Orioles until June 16, 1986 when he was traded to the Montreal Expos. Martinez turned his career around with the Expos and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.
"Dennis had two strong attributes I look for in any athlete: mental toughness and emotional control,'' Poitevint said.
Our condolences go out to the Poitevint family on the loss of a pioneering scout.