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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Martinez defensive about catching

Jeff Dahn        

MINNEAPOLIS - At the conclusion of the 2010 Perfect Game National Games-Class of 2012, a PG scout made the following observation about young catching prospect Jeremy Martinez, who is actually in the class of 2013:

"Martinez is an outstanding defensive catcher, receives very well, blocks well, very good catch and throw skills, takes charge of the game ... (an) outstanding all-around talent that needs to be watched very closely."

A report reading like that is pure poetry to any catcher serious about his craft, and Martinez is certainly that. There is only one catcher in the national high school class of 2013 ranked higher than Martinez at the position, and Zack Collins and Martinez are playing together on the same field this weekend.

Martinez and Collins are two of about 300 top 2013 prospects who have been out on Mall of America Field inside the Metrodome over the past four days for the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase. The prestigious event ends its five-day run Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, Martinez participated in the workout portion of the showcase and spoke with Perfect Game before he and his PG White teammates played the first of their two games on Sunday. The White squad will play a third game Monday morning.

"It's a privilege and an honor to come here with the best kids in the nation," Martinez said. "To represent myself and to showcase what I have, it means a lot; I can show these scouts what I'm capable of.

"It's crazy how much talent there is in this class," he continued. "I've been able to meet a lot of new friends and start to build relationships that will last a long time."

Martinez is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in his class, as evidenced by the PG scouting report from almost two years ago. He is as solid at the plate as he is behind it, and that combination has led to Martinez rising to the No. 9 position in the 2013 overall national rankings.

At Sunday morning's workout session, he recorded a POP time of 1.97-seconds and threw from home to second base at 76 mph.

"I have a huge passion for catching," he said. "I believe catching is overlooked a lot but I take a lot of pride in it with the fundamentals on the defensive side. I always start out with my catching drills and then from there I'll move on to hitting."

Martinez didn't do much traveling last summer, opting instead to do personal workouts at home with his father, Joey. It's something he may do again this summer.

"Me and my father talked about it, and we just spent time working on my swing and working on my body trying to get ready for this year," Martinez said. "I really don't have a summer (travel ball) team I play for. What I usually do is stay at home and workout, and get my catching (work) done and work on my swing and work on my body."

He attended three Perfect Game events in 2010, getting his first experience at the California Underclass Showcase in San Bernardino. He then went on to the PG National Games and finished his 2010 season at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., playing with the SGV Arsenal.

Martinez, who calls Fountain Valley, Calif., home, will be a senior at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., in the fall. He was a key member of a Mater Dei team that finished 24-6 and ranked No. 12 in the PG National High School Top 50 Rankings after losing in the semifinal round of the California South Section Division 1 playoffs.

He hit .388 (33-for-85) with six doubles, 18 RBIs and 20 runs scored in the spring. He also boasted a .990 fielding percentage and threw out six of the 10 base-runners that attempted to steal on him.

"We had a really good team this year," Martinez said. "We had a lot of great guys and great team chemistry; it was probably one of the best teams I've played for at Mater Dei. It was a great spring and a good run that we had."

One of the top players on that team was Ty Moore, an alum of the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase who has signed with UCLA and was selected by the New York Yankees in the 25th round of the MLB amateur draft earlier this month. He has not signed with the Yankees.

"Ty is a great kid," Martinez said. "He was a big help to our team and he's just a good guy."

While Moore signed with UCLA, Martinez has committed to its Los Angeles cross-town rival, Southern California, calling USC his "dream school."

"Coach (Frank) Cruz did a great job and he showed me around campus," Martinez said. "USC was my dream school and they gave me a good offer and I took it right away. I committed really early with baseball in the equation, and I plan on living in southern California and a diploma from USC would take me a long way."

Martinez may never make it on the USC campus, of course. PG projects him as a potential first round pick in the 2013 amateur draft based on his ranking as the No. 23 overall prospect in the draft. He is ranked third among all the catching prospects eligible for the draft (college, junior college or high school) behind Collins and Reese McGuire, who is also at the PG National this week.

Martinez reacts to talk of the rankings with a smile and a shrug.

"It's a good thing and Perfect Game does a great job with it, but I don't really pay attention to it," he said.  "I just like to push myself and compete with the best."

He has also made an effort to educate himself about the whole draft process.

"I was very fortunate to play with a lot of kids ... that told me about the draft and how stressful it is," Martinez said. "They gave me great advice about just having fun and just playing my game and at the end of the day it's all going to work out in your favor."

He has learned to relax, even when performing in front of hundreds of scouts at an event like the PG National.

"I think the biggest thing is just to have fun; If you come in and you're nervous you stop being yourself," he said. "You just want to have fun and showcase your talent, and do the best that you can do. In the big games, I can feel the adrenaline and I like to get at it, but I play really relaxed. I just like being out here at the baseball field."

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