In case you didn’t see it, in yesterday’s game between the Orioles and Blue Jays, Russell Martin took a Mark Trumbo foul tip right off the hand. The pitch delivered by J.A. Happ was a fastball, so it’s safe to say it was travelling mid 90’s. Trumbo hit the slightest of foul tips which was enough to re-direct the ball squarely at Martin’s hand. We have a pretty good sense of how tough Martin is for him to play such a physically demanding position like catcher, but when you see him take a ball like that off the hand, only then do you realize how freakishly tough he really is.
Often times a play looks a lot worse than it really is, and you see the player shake it off like it was no big thing. What happened yesterday was not one of those plays. The ball was travelling incredibly fast and it hit Martin’s knuckles flush. What was most amazing was that Martin didn’t even show much pain. For precautionary purposes the medical staff came out to evaluate him, but he simply shrugged it off and stayed in the game.
Catcher is one of those positions that always attracts the toughest kids growing up. Anyone who’s afraid of getting hit or is averse to pain isn’t going to choose to play catcher. All big league catcher’s are tough as nails, and probably a whole lot tougher than most other ball players. But when it comes to Martin, he seems even tougher than most other catchers.
It isn’t just Martin’s ability to endure pain like he did with that foul tip, his level of toughness also has to do with how durable he is over the course of a season as he’s able to catch more games than your average starting catcher. Even for a young player in their early to mid 20’s like Martin was back with the Dodgers from 2006-2010, catcher is still not an easy position to play every day over a 162-game season. No one seemed to tell this to Martin however as he had seasons early in his career where he caught 149, 145, and 137 games, and even sprinkled in a little time at 3rd base and DH when he wasn’t catching.
One of the most impressive records in baseball is Cal Ripken‘s 2,632 consecutive games played. I’m not saying that Martin would ever break that record, but one has to think that if a player with his durability and tolerance for pain were to play a position other than catcher, he could probably string together a pretty impressive consecutive games streak of his own.