Miami Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez resigned on Sunday after reports surfaced that he had physically and verbally abused several of the team’s players. Martinez has now responded to and refuted some of the claims made.
According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Martinez called out players for not picking up balls they hit in the batting cage. Martinez claims it is standard practice for players to help pick up balls after a drill in which a coach soft tosses them to hitters. After players repeatedly neglected to do so, Martinez spoke up and some of the confrontations grew heated.
Martinez maintains that while he did use vulgarity with each player involved, he did not grab second baseman Derek Dietrich by the neck as some reports allege. The 45-year-old former New York Yankee claims he only grabbed Dietrich’s jersey.
Martinez spoke to FoxSports.com about the incidents Monday night and claimed they were “one-time disputes that did not linger.”
Martinez described how the soft-toss drill works:
If Bernie Williams is hitting in front of me and I’m waiting with Paul O’Neill or whoever, there are no questions asked. You help pick the balls up, and the next guy hits. Whoever is hanging around helps pick the balls up. It’s standard.
The disputes happened with Dietrich, infielder Chris Valaika and outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Martinez claims that Valaika would often follow veteran outfielder Juan Pierre in the batting cage but would never help pick up balls after Pierre was done.
After about a month of waiting for Valaika to start helping pick up balls, Martinez claims he asked the 27-year-old to help and Valaika responded, “Why should I, I didn’t hit ’em.” That escalated the dispute and it eventually became heated, but Martinez claims it wasn’t an issue again after that day.
Martinez also described the incident with Dietrich:
I go, “Derek, help us pick the balls up.” He goes “Why, I didn’t hit ’em.” I said, “I don’t give a s— if you didn’t hit ’em, help us pick the balls up.” He walked toward me, not angrily, and said, “Hey, I didn’t hit the balls, why should I pick ’em up?”
I grabbed his jersey and said, “Because you’re f—— part of this team, pick the f—— balls up right now. Pick the f—— balls up. I’m tired of your s—.” I probably pushed him backwards. That was it.
Martinez claims that was also a one-time event, and Dietrich only reported it after he was sent to the minor leagues by the Marlins. Batting practice pitcher Tim Smith saw the incident involving Dietrich and agreed that Martinez only grabbed his jersey, not his neck.
When asked why he spoke out, Martinez says that in talking to friends he became convinced he had to say something:
I started thinking about it, thinking I’ve got to say something, not just let it go away. I’ve had a reputation in this game for years. I walked away from the game with integrity. But now, to have a couple of kids try to ruin my name, I felt I had to say something.
Martinez was a two-time All-Star and four-time World Series champion during his 16-year playing career. He apologized for his actions when he resigned, but obviously felt like he needed to get his side of the story out there.
While speaking out won’t solve this situation for Martinez, it may help him get a job in the future. He had no real previous coaching experience before being hired as the Marlins’ hitting coach before the 2013 season. He’ll probably take a break from working in the big leagues but don’t be shocked if he gets back into coaching at the minor league level at some point.