By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Baseball trades are not unusual. In fact, they’re a big part of the game.
However, when they involve two players from the same high school, they are more than unusual.
“Crazy coincidence” is how Curve outfielder Jason Martin described the January trade that brought him to the Pittsburgh organization and sent former Pirate pitching ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros.
Many Pirate fans were not happy when the Bucs traded two of their biggest stars last winter, sending Cole, arguably their best pitcher to the Astros, and Andrew McCutchen, arguably their best player, to the San Francisco Giants.
However, the Pirates received some good players and good prospects in return. Big leaguers Colin Moran (third base) and pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz came to Pittsburgh from Houston along with the Curve’s Martin, who has been among the Eastern League’s top hitters all season.
“It was a crazy coincidence being involved in a trade with someone who went to same high school,” Martin said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “Just shows it’s a small world.”
Martin and Cole are both graduates of Orange Lutheran (Calif.) High School.
“I do not know him,” Martin said of Cole. “He graduated the year before I got there. I’ve heard a lot about him and I’m sure I’ll run into him somewhere, sometime … perhaps at an alumni event.
“We have an alumni game every year and I try to go. I’ll probably run into him there at some point.”
Martin was drafted in the eighth round by the Astros in 2013 and signed almost immediately, even though he had committed to Long Beach State University.
“I really wanted to get a jumpstart on my baseball career,” Martin said of the reason he bypassed college. “I felt that four years in college … well, you never know what can happen. I wanted to take advantage of the baseball opportunity.
“I’m really happy I made that decision,” Martin noted, “because I feel I’ve bettered my game so much being around professional coaches and learning from other players. I feel like it’s helped me a lot”
Martin played for the Gulf Coast League Astros in 2013 and Greeneville (rookie) and Tri-City (low A) in 2014. He advanced to Quad Cities (A) in 2015 and Lancaster (high A) in 2016. In 2017, he divided time between Buies Creek (high A) and Corpus Christi (AA).
Prior to joining the Curve in 2018, Martin’s five-year minor league totals included 453 games, a .269 average in 1,694 at-bats, 50 homers and 238 RBIs.
“I see a lot of similarities in both organizations,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive from all the coaches because they want to help you improve. I don’t have anything bad to say about either (organization).”
Martin was drafted as a centerfielder but has played the corner spots as well.
At 5-feet-10 and 185 pounds, Martin is not the biggest but he’s shown good power, especially the past couple seasons.
“I feel like it’s a couple things,” he said. “I learned the launch angle with the Astros. It doesn’t matter how big you are if you have good bat speed. The pitcher will supply lot of power and, if you have good command of the zone, you can hit it out of the park.
“Along with that, I work hard in the weight room,” Martin added. “I’m not tall, but I work on my lower half and legs and I feel like it’s a combination of those things which have led to my power.”
Only 22, Martin has risen to the double-A level quickly.
“I feel good being here,” he said. “I’m young, but I like to compete.”
Curve manager Michael Ryan likes what he’s seen from Martin so far.
“From April till now, he’s been our most consistent guy at the plate,” Ryan said. “The power he has for his size … it’s special. He has quick hands and good leverage with that leg kick. He’s played centerfield well, too.
“He’s working on arm strength and needs to improve there,” Ryan noted. “He comes to work everyday and gives a consistent effort and it shows on the field.
“He’s a lot of fun to watch.”