LAKEWOOD, NJ- Drafted by the team he grew up rooting for, first baseman Kyle Martin has found the transition to professional baseball to be an easy one, in the midst of living a dream.
Through 15 games with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the left-handed hitting Martin has had early success, sporting a .322 average with seven doubles, a triple and a homer with eight RBI.
A lifelong southerner, the six-foot-two 225-pounder followed in his father’s footsteps, cheering for the Phillies from far away.
“South Carolina born and raised, but my dad’s family and my dad was born up around the Philly area, so I kind of grew up following in his steps since there’s nobody to pull for down in South Carolina,” Martin shared in the FirstEnergy Park home dugout this week.
Martin happily described the moment in which his family’s favorite team drafted him 114th overall just last month.
“I was with my whole family, my mom, my dad, some close relatives and all my family and friends. It was an exciting moment, a great moment, very unscripted that you can’t really write up,” Martin said.
“I mean the whole house kind of erupted with excitement. I think my dad may have shed a tear. I think he was more happy I got a job more so than anything. But other than that, it was just full of happiness and joy. It was a great moment.”
Living far away, the Martins didn’t attend too many Phillies games as Kyle grew up, but one Phillie in particular stands out as making a hefty impression on the young prospect during his formative years.
“I grew up a huge Jim Thome fan,” Martin said. “He was a big inspiration. His swing, the way he went about the game was a big part of it.
“Great guy. A very good guy to look up to, on or off the field, he did everything the right way, played the game the right way and it rewarded him in the end.”
Martin, who wears a steady expression of seriousness and determination whenever he’s near the field, has quickly asserted himself as a key contributor for Lakewood by notching seven multi-hit games in his last 12 contests. His abilities at the plate have impressed his coaches.
“One thing I really like on him is his pitch selection,” BlueClaws hitting coach Nelson Prada stated. “He, for a big boy, he doesn’t strike out too much. Coming from college to play pro and to become a clean up guy for a professional team, you know, getting some RBI’s already and some good at bats is a plus for him. I think he’s going to be a good hitter. ”
This year in his senior season with the South Carolina Gamecocks, the 22-year-old notched a .350 average with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 57 games.
Four years in a tough collegiate conference was key for Martin’s transition into affiliated professional baseball.
“Playing in the SEC, it’s the top level, it’s top notch programs,” Martin shared. “Playing against them, you see the kind of pitching in the SEC that you see here and it’s really prepared me. It’s gotten me in the zone, it’s gotten me in the moment and has helped me evolve as a hitter and a fielder in this type of play.”
Now, playing in an area in which he has family ties, Martin will get the support he thrived on throughout his college playing days in order to continue thriving on the diamond.
“I’ve got some family, and friends who have family, up here and I’ve gotten to see them a good bit, so that’s really kind of helped me out so far and will be nice going forward.”