ABOUT TINO MARTINEZ
"Tino Martinez made many people realize that you can be successful at the highest level of Major League Baseball, regardless of what division you played your college baseball. He is widely known as the greatest player to ever play in Division II. Not only was Tino a standout on the field, he was exceptional academically. He embodied everything that it means to be a student-athlete and is a model for all young aspiring baseball players. The award is an honor for Tino and is something very, very special to him. We as family are very proud of all of his accomplishments, on and off the field, from his days at the University of Tampa up until today."
Lelo Prado, Head Baseball Coach USF
Despite being drafted in the third round by the Boston Red Sox in 1985, Martinez opted instead to attend the University of Tampa . Even with his unquestioned ability and potential, Martinez was a young high school senior at the age of seventeen and he felt that going to college would allow him to become bigger, stronger and more importantly, more mature and prepared to handle playing professional baseball.
The opportunity to play right away as a freshman was key factor for Martinez in selecting the Spartans. He was eager to contribute and didn't want to spend a year sitting on the bench. Additionally, his older brother Rene was a year ahead of him and already playing on the team. To make UT even more appealing, a couple of friends that he had grown up with were also headed to the Tampa campus. Martinez was recruited by a number of big time DI schools including Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Miami, but the chance to play for a great program in front of family and friends was too much for any school to overcome.
While playing for his hometown Spartans Martinez was a three-time All-American, a three time First Team All Sunshine State member and still holds a number of UT records including career home runs (54), career slugging percentage (.736), career on base percentage (.494), single season batting average (.452) and single season slugging percentage (.957). While he wore a Spartan uniform Tampa advanced to their first NCAA Division II National Championships (1986 and '87) and won their first of twelve SSC Championships ('87). Current LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has been quoted as stating Martinez was, "the best player I've ever coached against".
In 1988 Martinez was the DII Player of the Year, a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is awarded annually to the best amateur baseball player in the country, was the MVP of the Baseball World Cup (even though the USA did not win the tourney) and helped lead Team USA to victory in the gold medal game of the Olympics when he hit two home runs and drove in four runs to lead the Red, White and Blue to a 5-3 victory against Japan.
As a professional Martinez was a two-time MLB All Star and four-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees. In 1997 we won both the Silver Slugger Award and the All Star Game Home Run Derby and finished second in the AL MVP voting. During his sixteen years (1990-2005) playing at the highest level he had 1925 hits with 339 home runs, over 900 runs scored, 1271 RBI and had at least 100 RBIs in six seasons. After retiring Martinez spend a couple of season as a volunteer coach at USF before rejoining the Yankees as an assistant to general manager Brian Cashman.
Choosing to go to college and play baseball for a DII school rather than play professionally was a decision that Martinez never regrets, “I say it to kids all the time - a Division II school like the University of Tampa or many throughout the country, it's great competition and there are a lot of great programs”. He also stresses to professional minded players what scouts who had watched him play in high school told him, “Wherever you go they are going to find you... You can go to JC, you can go to a DII school, a DI school. It doesn't matter.”
Playing college baseball afforded Martinez a number of memories and experiences he never would have had if he had signed a contract out of high school.
“There's a lot of memories, but the first one I would say was the first year the University of Tampa ever went to the College World Series (1986),” Martinez shared, “To get past the regional tournament and to get the World Series was a great accomplishment for our program and really put our program on the map.”
On a personal level Martinez cherished the opportunity to play on a pair of US national teams, the Pan American Team in '87 and the Olympic Team in '88.
“I wouldn't have those opportunities had I not gone to college,“ Martinez stated, “It was great for me to make the Olympic Team as the only DII player on the team, same thing with the Pan Am Team. It was a great confidence builder and learning experience to travel everywhere and play all over the country against top competition.”