How J.D. Martinez made his dad's American dream come true

Rob Bradford
May 09, 2019 - 8:27 am

BALTIMORE — A mountain of a man, Julio Martinez’s emotions don’t exactly get put on display while watching his son J.D. play baseball. Perhaps a big hit by the Red Sox here or there might elicit the brief raising of his arms, but that’s about it. 

Thursday it will be a bit more difficult for Julio to hide his feelings. The moment means too much.

“It’s exciting. I even bought a new suit,” the father of Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told WEEI.com. “It will really hit me on Thursday.”

The anticipation is being built for good reason. Considering the path Julio and his family have taken to find themselves as guests in the White House any response will be understandable. This is a moment 58 years in the making.

Thanks to the celebration of the World Series-winning Red Sox in the nation’s capital Julio Martinez is thinking the previously unthinkable.

The story of J.D.’s dad getting the royal treatment on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is the stuff of the ultimate American dream. It is a journey that started with his father escaping Cuba on a raft in 1961 before sending for his family — including 6-year-old Julio — with only the clothes on their backs.

Baseball was always part of the Martinez family, dating back to when J.D.’s grandfather rebuilt the stadium in his hometown of Matanzas, Cuba. But to think the sport would lead them to Thursday’s destination still seems like a fairytale for Julio, whose family shared a house with two other families for years after arriving in the United States.

“I wish my father were alive to see this,” he said of the White House visit. “Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. It’s amazing I can go there. I came from Cuba in 1962 so it’s been a long road. I get to do it because of him. It’s going to be an unbelievable moment.”

The scene won’t be entirely unfamiliar for Julio, who has been to Washington, D.C. a few times, with the first visit coming in the 1970’s when he traveled by himself on an errand. He was immediately taken in by the museums and monuments. The Lincoln Memorial. The Air and Space Museum. The Washington Monument. They all immediately fascinated the newly-indoctrinated American. 

But when he returned with a very young J.D. on the way back from a Vermont ski trip, the interest didn’t quite carry over.

“When I went by myself I spent the whole day going to all the museums and the Capitol,” Julio noted. “So when we came back with the family I told them all about it and nobody cared. Nobody wanted to get out of the car. So I got really mad and we just left.”

Needless to say, this time around there promises to be more digestion of the situation.

Julio’s view of the White House has never gotten closer than the neighboring sidewalk. Now he and his son will be America’s guest.

“Never. Maybe on a tour, but nothing like this,” he said when asked if he could have ever dreamed of entering the White House. “It’s great. We’re very proud of him. It’s an honor to go there.”

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