Tino Forced to Admit: Playing Career's Over
An ESPN Gig Awaits the Tampa Native, Who Retires After 16 Seasons
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2006
Tino Martinez didn't want to make a formal announcement. If he'd had his way, he just would have not showed up for spring training and gone on with his life.
But with a new high-profile gig at ESPN about to start, he figured people might notice. So Tuesday, the Tampa native officially acknowledged that his stellar 16-year playing career, which included four World Series championships with the Yankees and a 2004 season with his hometown Devil Rays, indeed was over.
"I don't want to make this a big deal," Martinez said by phone. "I'm done. I'm not going to play anymore. I'm 100 percent decided."
Martinez, 38, said he began to realize the end was near when he was limited to part-time duty in 2005. He decided he wanted to finish his career in pinstripes, and when the Yankees declined an option to bring him back this season, he determined there was no point in going anywhere else.
"I wanted to retire as a Yankee, to have that uniform on for the last time," he said. "It's a great way to go out."
And the chance to get right in at ESPN, with duties that include the Baseball Tonight studio show, some radio work and assignment to a few games, provided a perfect transition and an exciting challenge.
"This opportunity made it a lot easier," he said. "I'm really fired up about it. And I'm going to work hard at it to get better."
After starring at Tampa Catholic and Jefferson high schools and the University of Tampa, Martinez was a 1988 first-round pick by the Mariners and a gold-medal Olympian. He made two All-Star teams during his 16 seasons with the Mariners, Yankees, Cardinals and Rays, finished second in the 1997 AL MVP voting after hitting 44 homers and piled up some impressive career numbers: a .271 average, 339 home runs and 1,271 RBIs.
"To play 16 years in the big leagues; most people dream of playing one day," Martinez said. "I gave it all I had. I definitely made the most of my opportunity. And I look back with no regrets."
So, Tino's career has come to an end, and another member of the Dynasty is lost to retirement. I was lucky enough to have been present at Tino's final game in pinstripes at the Stadium for Game 4 of the ALDS to give him the proper send-off. His presence will certainly be missed, on the field and in the clubhouse. I'm happy he ended his career as a Yankee, but I was hoping he'd be able to go out a champion once again, with a fifth World Series ring to complete the set. Unfortunately, Tino rejoined a team last season very different from the Yankee teams he'd been accustomed to in the past. Constantino Martinez was a true Yankee and a proven winner who provided Yankee fans with countless fond memories. Seeing him on "Baseball Tonight" will be some consolation, but I will certainly miss my favorite player every time I take a look at first base. Jason Giambi, once again, has some big shoes to fill, just as Tino did when he arrived to replace Don Mattingly in 1996.