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From Cigars to the Big League

Born in the shadow of a cigar factory, baseball star Tino Martinez remains close to America's traditional capital of cigar making.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, July/Aug 03

(continued from page 3)

Martinez felt slighted by his team. Like Mattingly before him, he wasn't ready to hang up the pinstripes. "It was tough, because we'd had so much success there as a team and I thought I'd played well there; I thought I did a good job there, and I deserved to stay at the time. But then, on the other hand, I also understood that it's a business. So I can't tell George Steinbrenner or anybody where to spend their money or who to give it to."

Martinez, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals, succeeding another legend, the aching giant Mark McGwire. The shoes were easier to fill than Mattingly's. "McGwire had been hurt the last couple of years and he had back problems and he wasn't playing up to his potential, and he just felt it was time for him to retire. And I think the fans understood that," says Martinez.

Playing for the Cardinals last year was similar in ways to Martinez's Bronx days. The team was a powerhouse, winning the Central Division despite the heartbreaking sudden death from heart failure of pitcher Darryl Kile. The shell-shocked team regained its composure to go deep into the post-season, falling to the Giants in the National League Championship Series. Martinez showed the strain of moving to the National League. His average dropped 22 points, to .262, but he truly struggled in the post-season, going 2-for-25. "It was an adjustment, bigger than I thought," he says. "There are so many guys I hadn't faced, and it took some time to get used to."

Martinez has two years left on his St. Louis contract. He says he'll be reluctant to sign another multiyear deal. "I'm going to play those two years, and then see what happens. If I'm still playing well, and the right situation is out there to keep playing, I'll keep playing," he says. "If not, I'll be glad to retire and figure out what I want to do after that."

Whenever he does hang up his cleats for good, his grandfather will increase his cigar shipments from Tampa. "I'm definitely going to enjoy them more when I'm retired from baseball," he says. Odds are that Grandpa won't have to send the cigars very far, because Martinez will be smoking them right there in Tampa.


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