His transition from the outfield to first base hasn’t hurt his
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES — Todd Martin isn’t looking too far into the future with his opportunities in the Cleveland Indians organization.
But if the 24-year-old Cookeville, Tenn., native keeps hitting the ball like he has been recently for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, he’ll be the only one not looking too far into the future.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound Martin is in his second season in the Indians minor league organization, the first with Mahoning Valley.
Martin signed late last season with the Indians after the 2006 draft and played part of a season with the Tribe’s team in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.
He played just 11 games and batted .217, but the Indians brought him back and sent him to the Scappers this year.
The Scappers (10-11) had an open date Tuesday and will open a three-game series against the Vermont Lake Monsters tonight in Burlington, Vt.
Martin has played in 19 games and is batting a team-best .371 with 26 hits in 70 trips to the plate, with four home runs, five doubles and 18 RBIs.
“I’ve really been seeing the ball well this year and it’s made a big difference,” Martin said.
Even though he leads the team in hitting, home runs and RBIs, he still doesn’t expect to be moving up anywhere soon.
“The big thing is that I’m learning a new position and that’s going to take some time,” Martin said. “I’ve been an outfielder all my life and now I’m playing first base. It’s different, but it’s not something that I can’t handle.”
Martin spent two seasons at the University of Tennessee, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State where he was drafted by the Indians.
“I got a late start last year signing in mid-July and really just got my feet wet and really never got into the swing of things, but it’s been much better this season,” he said.
Scrappers manager Tim Laker really likes what he sees in Martin with the bat.
“The first thing that I really noticed about Todd was the sound of the ball off his bat,” Laker said. “It’s totally different than anybody else on this team.
“He’s been swinging the bat really well and it’s a nice smooth swing with hardly any effort at all. It’s the swing of a true hitter.”
Martin, who had three hits in Monday’s 10-2 loss to the Lowell Spinners, has hit safely in nine of the last 10 Scrappers games.
His .371 average is third best in the New York-Penn League and his four homers are the best, while he ranks third in RBIs with 18.
“He’s one guy who I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into a real good major league hitter,” Laker said. “He’s learning a new position, but that’s only going to help him down the road.”
He was selected the NYPL’s Player of the Week on July 2 and despite learning a new position has made only three errors in his first 19 games.
“I really enjoy playing here,” Martin said. “It’s a lot different from the Rookie League where there isn’t much of a fan base.
“Here we have a great stadium and four or five thousand fans almost every game,” he said.
The Scrappers will follow their three-game series at Vermont with a three-game set at Tri-Cities (Buhl, N.Y.) before returning home on Tuesday to take on the Staten Island Yankees.