Edgar Martinez's Hall of Fame moment with local Marine: 'Thanks for being a DH in Iraq'

Edgar Martinez signed this bat for Mike Austin, during his first of three tours in Iraq as a Marine. “To Sgt. Austin,” he wrote, “thanks for being a DH in Iraq.”

In the days leading to Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame announcement, Michael Austin watched the vote tracker ever hour hoping he could have a moment like the one he expects this weekend – bringing his wife, son and daughter for their first trip to Cooperstown.

When Martinez’s name was announced last January – finally voted in during his 10th and final year on the ballot – Austin immediately went on the computer, finding flights and starting travel plans.

“We’ve been waiting 15 years since his retirement to come see this,” Austin said at the Newark, N.J. airport.

His 3-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat on her first flight Thursday, along with her 8-year-old brother, Andrew. A Little League catcher and third baseman, he was excited to see the museum – but also the Empire State Building and spots around New York City.

The biggest fan was their dad.

Like every great Mariners fan, Austin remembers exactly where he was when Martinez hit The Double in Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the Yankees – the moment that saved baseball in Seattle. He can recite Dave Niehaus’ call, too.

Swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit! 
Here comes Joey! Here is Junior to third base, they're going to wave him in! 
The throw to the plate will be ... LATE! 
The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! 
I don't believe it! It just continues! My, oh my!

After the Mariners’ 116-win season, Austin went to spring training in 2002 and decided he’d go every year. But the following spring, he was deployed to Iraq, serving with fellow Marines in the southern desert. It was the first of three tours.

Could you see if you can get a spring training cap since I can’t make it, Austin asked his wife? Edgar Martinez autograph optional, he joked.

Through friends, the story reached Martinez. He gave Austin a hat and signed it, too. Then, he went to his locker and grabbed a bat.

“To Sgt. Austin,” he wrote, “thanks for being a DH in Iraq.”

That’s why Austin wore his Martinez jersey for the flight on Thursday, and why he and his wife, Nicole, wanted their family to be there for Martinez’s Hall of Fame moment. The bat is framed in the most revered spot of the family room in their Kirkland home.

“For somebody to do that without even being asked and to personalize it in such a way …” Austin said. It was a touching moment “for him to think about that and care that much.”




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