Moises Alou: Martinez realizing he has to want success
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Moises Alou remembers being in the same position Fernando Martinez finds himself in. The six-time All-Star also came up as a highly regarded prospect, considered to have all the talent in the world. But his first few trips to the majors didn't stick.
One day, however, Alou decided to change things. He chose to write his own script.
"When I was first in the big leagues, I had all the talent but I was pretty much going through the motions, blah, blah, blah," Alou said Wednesday by phone from the Dominican Republic.
"I'm not saying he's going through the motions, but you know what? I decided I wanted to be a baseball player and I wanted to be a good one. And I played for a long time. You pretty much have to take control of yourself."
That was the message Alou, 43, delivered to Martinez in the Dominican Republic this past offseason, over and over. As the general manager of the Dominican winter league team that Martinez played on, Alou had many opportunities to drum the message home to the 21-year-old centerfield prospect.
And Alou said he took full advantage.
"It's up to him now," Alou said. "He's got all the talent in the world. I told Fernando, 'You have to want it.' And I know, this year he really wants it."
That desire has translated into a barrage of hits for Martinez so far this spring training, including his three-run home run off Ramon Ramirez Wednesday in the eighth inning of the Mets' 4-2 win over the Red Sox.
Martinez has 14 hits in 26 at-bats in Grapefruit League play thus far, including two doubles, two triples and three home runs. Clearly he looks nothing like the player who went 16-for-91 (.176) during his brief stint in the majors last season before needing knee surgery.
Even though the Mets are committed to starting Martinez in Triple-A this season to give him more seasoning, they've noticed a difference in their highly touted prospect, too.
"I've seen a more consistent hitter," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I've seen a guy that drives the ball a lot better."
Martinez credits his offensive exploits this spring to his new mental approach, saying he is putting a lot less pressure on himself to perform.
"When I was called up last year, I tried to do too much because I didn't want to go down again," Martinez said. "This year I'm just trying to play the game, relax and enjoy the game."
Alou also believes Martinez's winter league experience - he was MVP of the Caribbean Series in January - has helped him believe that he can be a successful major-league player.
In the postseason Martinez went 18-for-50 with four doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs, a performance Alou said is especially impressive because of the added pressure players feel to perform in their homeland. "If you don't do well, the fans get personal," he said. "They yell. It's a tough league, man."
Alou is traveling to Florida this week and plans to be in Port St. Lucie this weekend. While there he hopes to meet with Martinez to continue drumming home the same message from the winter, even if early indications are it has set in.
"He's the one who has to decide what kind of player he wants to be and how long he wants to be in the big leagues," Alou said. "He's got the swing. He's got the talent. He's definitely got the talent.
"It's up to him right now."