Until about 1 p.m. yesterday, Guy Conti was just another
man in a suit at the Pedro Martinez news conference.
But then Martinez answered a question about the Mets' new bullpen coach,
who was a minor-league pitching instructor in the Dodgers' organization when
Martinez was a 15-year-old prospect.
"He's my daddy," Martinez said. "He's the real one."
Martinez, of course, called the Yankees "my daddies" in September in a
quote for the ages. In poking fun at that moment yesterday, he also revealed
his feelings for Conti, who was the Mets' minor- league field coordinator
before joining Willie Randolph's staff last month.
"This seems like fate because I started off with him," Martinez said. "Even
as a big- leaguer, we kept in touch. He's my white daddy."
Martinez was laughing when he said that, and many in the Stadium Club at
Shea flinched. But Pedro says what Pedro thinks, and he thinks a lot of the man
whom he credits with teaching him his signature pitch, the changeup.
The feeling is mutual. It was Conti who accompanied pitching coach Rick
Peterson to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday to pick up Martinez for the trip
to New York. "You know what's weird?" Conti said. "I started him out and I'm
going to be with him when he finishes."
Conti, 62, first met Martinez at the Dodgers' Dominican academy 18 years
ago. All Conti knew was that he was the younger brother of Ramon Martinez, who
then was a top prospect in the Los Angeles organization and who stood 6-4.
"They sent me out to look at him," Conti said. "I saw this 5-10, 145-pound
kid. I said, 'Wow, this is Ramon's brother?' Then I saw him throw. I saw the
arm speed. The guy's a special, special kid."
Conti said he taught Martinez the changeup that former Dodgers great Johnny
Podres had taught him and that Martinez "perfected it."
Conti also said Martinez nearly quit baseball when the Dodgers sent him to
Triple-A in 1992 and that he helped talk the emotional youngster out of it.
Conti thinks he can be just as helpful now as the full-grown, still emotional
Pedro navigates a new clubhouse and new city.
"Where I'll help him is when things get rough," Conti said. "I'll tell him,
'Let's go in the back room and talk a bit.' I've been with that kid in
situations through the years. He'll listen to me."