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Name Game

Martinez Receives Well-Deserved Recognition at Area Code Games


LONG BEACH — He wears No. 24 on his ample back and patrols first base.

At 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, he's easy to spot in his blue-jersey-and-white-pants Area Code uniform.

But even after playing well this week in the Area Code Games at Blair Field, Jaime Martinez of Hueneme High is still trying to gain recognition.

Despite two successful seasons at Hueneme, Martinez is not a household name.

"Once in a while, I felt like I was being left out," Martinez said.

Craig Wallenbrock, manager of the Area Code team, doesn't figure Martinez will remain unknown after this week. The team doesn't keep statistics, but Wallenbrock said Martinez performed well in the tournament that ends today with an All-Star game at 11 a.m.

"He has great intensity at the plate," Wallenbrock said. "I feel he's one of those kids who gives himself a chance to hit every time."

Martinez didn't miss many chances at Hueneme the last two seasons.

As a junior last season, Martinez batted .415 and led the Vikings with eight home runs and 41 runs batted in, earning a spot on the All-Southern Section Division II second team.

The previous year, Martinez batted .435 with six home runs and seven doubles, all team highs.

"I've always hit the ball pretty hard," Martinez said. "I started hitting the weight room in high school. I saw how big and strong the pros were getting and I wanted to be like them."

Although he didn't grab headlines, major league scouts took notice. They invited Martinez to try out for the Area Code Games, an annual showcase of high school players from across the nation.

Martinez survived the tryouts at USC in July.

"I knew it was going to be tough," he said. "But I was pretty confident."

Martinez was among 28 players chosen for the Area Code team comprised mainly of youngsters from Southern California.

Yet, Martinez didn't know anybody on the team.

"At first it was kind of weird, but I started to hit it off with some of the guys," Martinez said.

He had other things to work out, like hitting with a wooden bat and playing in front of many pro scouts and college coaches.

Every at-bat, sometimes against pitchers lighting up radar guns at 90 mph, and every defensive play were scrutinized.

"You try not to look [in the stands] 'cause you'll get nervous," Martinez said. "You think, 'Oh, man, I better not mess up.' "

Martinez platooned at first base, starting twice and came in for the final two or three innings in the other two games, a system that allowed coaches to give players as many innings as possible.

"He's one of the hardest workers on the team," Wallenbrock said.

And he's no longer laboring in obscurity.

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