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Wednesday, October 27, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Edgar Martinez receives Clemente Award

By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist

Edgar Martinez is the third Mariner to be presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.
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ST. LOUIS — For a young Edgar Martinez, it all started in 1971, watching the World Series, watching the Pittsburgh Pirates' right fielder, Roberto Clemente.

After watching that Series and, specifically that player, Martinez knew what he wanted to do when he grew up.

"After watching that World Series and watching Clemente play, I started playing in my backyard," Martinez said last night. "And I was hooked after that."

Martinez played 18 years in the big leagues, every game with the Mariners.

And last night, less than a month after his emotionally charged retirement, his career was capped with the announcement that he had received the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the player who combines outstanding baseball skill with a devotion to community service.

"I was in Seattle on the last Saturday night of the season when they celebrated Edgar's career," said baseball commissioner Bud Selig. "I've been in baseball for 40 years and I don't think I've ever seen a night where there was so much love and affection shown to one player.

"It showed me that as great a player as Edgar was on the field, he's an even greater human being off the field."

Martinez became the third Mariner to win the award. Harold Reynolds, now an ESPN analyst, won it in 1991 and pitcher Jamie Moyer won last season. Martinez also became the first Puerto Rican to get the honor that was first awarded in 1971.

From left, Roberto Clemente Jr., Edgar Martinez, commissioner Bud Selig and Carol Fulp of John Hancock, pose with the Roberto Clemente Award before Game 3 of the World Series last night in St. Louis.
"I know a lot of players in Puerto Rico who are involved and like to help out in their community. But it means a lot to me to be the first. Clemente was my idol as a child and to get this award is very special to me."

John Hancock Financial Services will donate $25,000 to Martinez's favorite charity, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, and also will donate $30,000 in Martinez's name to the Roberto Clemente Sports Center in Puerto Rico.

"I first remember Edgar as a skinny third baseman with the Mariners," Reynolds said. "But what stands out in my mind is that he never changed as a person. He always worked hard. Always was dedicated and was always approachable. He is the face of the Mariners."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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