Tampa, FL-- Tampa's native son Tino Martinez is back in New York this weekend, at Yankee Stadium, where he had the best seven years of his 16-year big league career.
He's got the whole family with him, because Saturday is going to be one very special day. Tino will have a plaque placed in historic Monument Park.
The moment came in April.
Tino was in Augusta, Georgia, watching the Par 3 contest on Wednesday of Masters Week. It's something he always wanted to do, but it was impossible when you're playing baseball every spring. He had just returned to his hotel, when the phone rang. It was the Yankees.
"They had about 10 people in the room, they had me on speaker phone," Tino told 10 Sports. "I do stuff for the Yankees, I do appearances and all that so I thought they were calling me about that... Instead, they said, 'We want you to know that on June 21st, we're honoring you with a plaque at Monument Park'. And I was just stunned."
Yes, Monument Park, Yankee Stadium. Where the greatest Yankees live together, forever. The kid from West Tampa, had made it.
"When I hung up the phone, I just sat there for about 30 or 45 minutes. Just thinking about it. What just happened. What an honor this is. "All the people who played there, all the greats in Monument Park. To have my name and my plaque go out there, it's just unbelievable."
Tino was such a success at the University of Tampa, the Division 2 baseball player of the year award, is named after him.
After the 1995 season, he was traded to the N.Y. Yankees, where the best moments of his professional career were waiting for him. Another West Tampa native, Lou Piniella, thought Tino and the Yankees would be a perfect fit. He was right.
"The team they had coming back was a group of hard working guys, we didn't have any superstars," Tino remembered. "I felt the fans in New York would like a guy who worked hard every day, played hard, didn't make any excuses. I thought If I could go out there and do my job and put up the numbers I was capable of on a daily basis, and play hard every day, it would work. And fortunately it worked."
By nature, Tino is a humble guy. He's not much for individual awards. But this one, Monument Park. It's different.
"Until that day comes, this Saturday, and I see my plaque in Monument Park and look at it. I'm not sure if I'll still believe it, but it'll start sinking in."
The ceremony will take place before the Yankees' game with Orioles, which starts at 1 p.m.