Edgar Martinez’s improbable path to becoming a Mariners icon

It’s easy to romanticize Martinez, whose number will be retired Saturday, as a chosen one whose success was preordained. But there were numerous junctures that could have stopped him from becoming what former second baseman Bret Boone called “the greatest Mariner of all-time.”

Edgar Martinez had a blessed baseball career, one that has earned him a street in his honor outside Safeco Field and an award for designated hitters in his name, brought him to the brink of Cooperstown and won him a lifetime of affection in his adopted hometown.

But as he settles in for the latest incarnation of unabashed Edgar love — the retirement of his No. 11 jersey on Saturday at Safeco Field — Martinez’s mind wanders back to the not-so-good old days.

He reflects on Bellingham in 1983, a 20-year-old fresh from Puerto Rico experiencing culture shock and hitting .173 in the Northwest League. He thought of Wausau, Wis., the next year, when he broke out with a .303 average in the Midwest League but still was stamped as a good-field, little-hit, borderline prospect. And he pondered all those years in the late 1980s he dominated the Pacific Coast League in Calgary, only to be blocked from a major-league job by the Mariners’ third-base incumbents, Jim Presley and Darnell Coles.

“When I reflect, that’s where my mind tends to go,” Martinez said this week from the Oakland Coliseum just before heading off to batting practice in his current job as the Mariners’ hitting coach. “All the hard work in the minor leagues. Those were the times I didn’t have any idea of what was going to happen in the future.”

What would happen, of course, was two batting titles, a Hall of Fame statistical portfolio and the most famous hit in Mariners history. Martinez was the rare guy that would draw opposing players to the bench during batting practice to try to glean some mechanical tip, but mostly just to admire an artist at work.

In talking this week to former Mariners manager Lou…

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