After winning the Alaska Baseball League’s home run derby in 2011, the former Harrison High School standout recently claimed another derby, that of the Northwoods League on July 23 in Eau Claire, Wis.
Martin won his first home run derby in Alaska based on reputation only. He hadn’t hit a ball over the fence in a game of the summer wood-bat league, but he routinely sent balls out during practice. So, Martin’s team at the time — the Mat-Su Miners — entered him as one of its two representatives.
This time, everyone knew about Martin.
Competing against many of the Northwoods League’s top power hitters, Martin, a rising senior at Western Carolina, entered the derby ranked second in the league with 10 homers.
Martin got off to a slow start in the derby’s field of eight, but he quickly warmed up and belted five homers in the first round, eight in the semifinals and 12 in the finals.
Martin’s opponent in the finals, Tripp Martin of the Green Bay Bullfrogs, only managed two homers.
The victory was a surprising one for Martin.
“I didn’t think I was going to win it,” he said, “but I got into a groove and got going and things came naturally. I hit 25 homers total, which seems like a lot. It really hasn’t sunk in that I won another derby because you get right back out there and play another game every day.
“I’m sure, once the season’s finally over, I’ll really be able to think about it.”
Martin’s reservations on winning were shared by the rest of the contestants. He said the wind was blowing in during batting practice and no one was hitting balls over the fence. But once the wind died down, Martin, who batted seventh of the eight participants, was able to take advantage.
The derby title was another highlight to what’s been a successful offseason for Martin.
Martin’s team, the St. Cloud (Minn.) Rox, entered Wednesday with a 29-29 record, having won seven of their last 10 games. In 55 games this summer, Martin, a catcher and outfielder, led the Rox with 10 home runs, 41 RBIs, 16 doubles and 37 hits, and ranked second with a .341 average.
“Northwoods is a pretty nice league,” he said. “It’s a prestigious league that’s backed by Major League Baseball. There’s a lot of talent here and a couple guys have made it to the majors. It’s a blessing to have been invited to play here.”
Though Martin wasn’t selected in last month’s draft, that hasn’t dampened his spirits. He plans to return to Western Carolina for his senior season and then see what happens next.
But first, he wants to finish things off with St. Cloud.
“The team looks good and I hope we can make the playoffs,” Martin said. “If not, then I’ll go back to school around Aug. 19. I’ll have less down time before school if we make a deep playoff run, but I won’t mind that at all if we’re still playing.”