Colby Martin is a Padre

 In Sports

For Colby Martin, going to the gym has become part of his regular routine.

It’s a sanctuary of sorts where the Warwick High School grad can clear his head and procure a good workout.

Tuesday, however, Martin’s time there didn’t do a lick of good. It was the third and final day of the Major League Baseball Draft, rounds 11-20, so his nerves were on overdrive while playing the waiting game and hoping for his name to get called.

“The last three days, man, it’s been stressful, honestly. It’s been really stressful,” Martin said later that night. “I went to the gym real quick before (the draft got underway), but I was a little too stressed out to get a workout in, so I didn’t do much.”

In time, the 614th and final selection in a deep draft came and went — with the Astros taking Western Carolina (N.C.) shortstop Pascanel Ferreras — but the day was just getting started for Martin.

The Lititz native, who pitched and played middle infield at Shenandoah University the past three seasons, was on the phone throughout the day with his agent, Patrick Higley, who informed Martin that he was still on teams’ radars. If Martin didn’t get drafted, there was a great chance for a free agent deal.

“I wasn’t too worried,” the 5-foot-11, 195-pound right-handed flamethrower said. “It was a stressful couple of days, honestly, but I think once (Higley) told me later today toward the end of the draft, it definitely eased my mind a little bit.”

Higley’s words proved prophetic when the Padres, Phillies and White Sox all contacted Martin on his phone within minutes following the MLB draft. The best offer, though, came from the Padres, who have been talking with Martin for the last couple years and creating a dialogue.

On the other end of the line was San Diego scout Danny Sader, and by 5:40 p.m., Martin was signed as a pitcher in the Padres organization.

When the call ended, he had a $40,000 signing bonus and a plane ticket to Arizona to officially start his professional career. Martin was expecting a call from San Diego in the next couple of days with more details.

It’s believed that Martin is the third from Lititz to play professionally, joining Zach Shank, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2013, and Ellie Kreider, who signed contracts with the Phillies and Dodgers in the mid-1900’s.

“I would say it’s a pretty good deal, especially being from a smaller school,” Martin said. “I’d say it’s a great deal because some of the guys I know that got drafted in the later rounds don’t even get that much of a signing bonus. So I’m pretty happy with that, obviously. I couldn’t resist.”

As stressed as Martin might have been early this week, his nerves were even worse while waiting out the 2022 draft. At least he could compete this spring for Shenandoah. Although Martin threw only 1 ⅔ innings in three appearances, he batted .390 for a Hornet team which advanced to the NCAA Division-Three Lynchburg (Va.) Super Regional.

Playing was out of the question last year for Martin, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Jan. 12, 2022. But thanks to a physical therapist with whom he worked in Virginia, Martin has bounced back strong. Eighteen months removed from the operation, although he still experiences a little tightness after throwing, he is pain free and excited about his progress.

“They say you don’t feel exactly how you want until closer to two years,” Martin remarked, “but I feel really good.”

That was evident during a pre-draft workout on Saturday, July 1 at Petco Park in San Diego, having flown in for the weekend with his mom, Kim. Prior to Tommy John surgery, Martin was hitting 100 on the radar guns. He didn’t quite hit triple digits off the mound at Petco, but he was still popping the mitt at an impressive 98 mph.

“Everyone asks me, ‘How did it feel to be on a big league mound in a big league stadium?,’ and I guess it didn’t really hit me until I went out to the bullpen to warm up,” he said. “Once I got on the game mound, obviously you try to lock in and block out everything. But it was cool to see the three decks and stuff. You don’t really play much in those around here.”

The Phillies also hosted Martin for a workout with other college players and draft prospects in late-June at a high school in Virginia. Plus, the defending National League champs wanted him to throw at Citizens Bank Park a week before the draft, but since it would have been so close to his session with the Padres, Martin declined.

Still, as he prepared for his dream opportunity, Martin wasn’t getting any definite answers from clubs about what to expect. Since 2019, the MLB draft has consisted of 20 rounds, down from 40 up until that point, meaning fewer players would be selected.

So Martin waited. And when not hitting the gym, he watched a lot of TV and tried to keep his mind off of things. In particular, on the recommendation of a friend, he scrolled through Netflix and watched a few episodes of the legal drama Suits.

“I decided I’d give it a try and it’s really good, actually,” Martin said.

Eventually, Suits took a backseat as he began replying to the many texts which were blowing up his cell phone.

“I still don’t think it’s hit me,” Martin said. “I think in the next couple of days once I soak it all in, especially when I get on the plane to go out (to Arizona), it will definitely sink in. But right now, I’m just kinda taking it all in.”

Packed in his suitcase for the flight to Arizona will be a pitching repertoire which includes a four-seamer, two-seam fastball/sinker, slider and change-up. It was after surgery that he began working on his two-seam pitch, giving him another weapon in his toolbox with different movement.

From what Martin could gather talking to clubs, his arm strength and athleticism are two of his strengths which stood out for them. His arm strength goes without saying, as his high-90’s fastball revealed at Petco.

As for his athleticism, his 34 stolen bases in 37 attempts this spring at Shenandoah — and 59 thefts in two years — should speak volumes. In high school, Martin also just happened to play basketball and earned Section Two All-Star honors for the Warriors.

Another factor which could benefit Martin is his light workload up to this point. He threw only a total of 9 ⅓ innings combined in two years for the Hornets, recording 16 strikeouts and limiting opponents to a .194 batting average. Even in high school, Martin played primarily at shortstop and second base, entering games as a late-inning reliever.

“I really don’t have too much wear and tear on my arm and stuff,” he said. “I think that will definitely help me too just in the learning process and on my arm and shoulder and everything.”

Over the years, Martin has certainly learned a thing or two by watching Marcus Stroman pitch for the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays. Like Martin, Stroman — at 5-foot-7, 180 — isn’t necessarily a tall pitcher. But the two are very similar in their athleticism and work ethic.

“I really like Marcus Stroman because he’s an athlete on the mound and I like the way that he approaches the game and approaches how he works,” Martin said. “I think it’s really cool how he goes about his work. He doesn’t throw super hard, but I think he’s learned how to pitch over the past couple of years and he’s just a super good athlete.”

Down the road, perhaps Martin and Stroman will share a mound in the middle of a big league diamond. As of Tuesday at least, they share the same title — professional pitcher.

“It’s pretty cool,” Martin said.

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