Thursday, August 4, 2011

Astros Martinez first home run riles up his hometown supporters

Moments after J.D. Martinez hit his first major league home run, the action at Casanova's Baseball Academy in Hialeah came to a screeching halt. His first-inning blast off of Dontrelle Willis had the phone ringing off the hook. Former major leaguer Paul Casanova picked up the call and excitedly shouted, “Flaco did it! He hit his first home run!” All of the players working out stopped and cheered for the hometown rookie.

“Flaco” is the nickname which most of the people at the baseball academy call Martinez. Trained under the watchful eyes of major league veterans Casanova and Jackie Hernandez, Martinez built his legend right in Casanova's backyard, literally.

Casanova runs a training facility out of the backyard of his home, complete with pitching machines, batting cages and video recording equipment. Martinez has been faithfully attending sessions at the academy since he was a budding superstar at Miami's Flanagan High School. He was called up less than a week ago to replace Hunter Pence after his trade to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Both ex-major leaguers had ear-to-ear grins as the calls poured in and the highlights flashed on the MLB Network.

“He's been coming here since he was a kid," Casanova said. "Everyone down here knows he was working with us and we are just happy to see him do it.”

As Martinez topped off the rest of the game with two doubles, one of which narrowly missed being a home run, Hernandez confidently asserted that this will be a normal occurrence for Martinez. “He's been doing this everywhere he's been. Every level, he's hit. We will see him in left field for many years to come, just watch.”

While the cheers in Houston may have been plentiful for Martinez, they were just as loud in Hialeah, as the hopefuls watched one of their own begin to build his legacy in the majors.

“All of Hialeah is pulling for him.” Casanova said.

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