By PAUL GOTHAM
Ben Martin figured he had one more season remaining to the playing side of his baseball career before making the transition to coaching. An injury suffered during the summer leading up to his senior year changed that.
But it was not for the worse.
One year after taking the field in his last game with St. John Fisher College, Martin has made the move to the bench as the Development Coach for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans – the Low-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” said Martin who broke the hamate bone in his right wrist on the first swing of the bat during the 2020 Interstate Collegiate Baseball League season. “Just last fall I was still finishing my degree and wasn’t really sure what I was going to be able to do after that aside from helping out coaching at Fisher.
“It probably would have felt like a bit of long shot if someone had told me what I’d be doing this season. At the same time, I kinda knew that this is what I wanted to be doing.”
Doing an online search last January, the former Churchville-Chili Saint found a job posting with the National League Central team. He filled out the application thinking he would get a role in baseball operations or as a video associate. Instead a representative from the Cubs research and development group contacted Martin about the coaching position.
His first thought was “I don’t remember seeing this role on that application.”
The club had Martin complete an additional questionnaire and take an interview.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Martin said. “Obviously, I did it. The interview process went well. Basically, here I am.”
An All-County performer at Churchville-Chili, Martin originally attended SUNY Brockport where he studied Exercise Science learning how the body adapts and the physical training needed for performance. The infielder later transferred to St. John Fisher College and switched his major to Statistics.
Last fall as he made the move to the coaching ranks, he took his work from the classroom and applied it to the diamond.
“Really just kinda dove in on the analytical side of everything. We do a good job at Fisher of having some pretty advanced technologies and ways to collect data. For the Division III level, there are not a lot of schools that have those tools available. Coach (Brandon) Potter really let me incorporate the use of the data with our players to help develop them, help with game-planning. It was great to be able to have the experience to incorporate the analytics with the coaching-side of things.”
The combination of work in the classroom and his understanding of the game prepared Martin for his current position with Myrtle Beach.
“It was a pretty good fit with what the Cubs wanted me to do here. Being able to combine those two areas of the physical side and the coaching side with the analytics and the numbers. My background playing the game combined with analytics is not necessarily a unique skillset, but it is definitely helpful in bridging the gap between the numbers, what’s happening on the field and how to incorporate them.”
As for the opposing sides of analytics vs. baseball instincts in preparing and implementing a game plan…
“For me, I don’t necessarily see a big divide between the two. When I was playing, I was always up to date and my mind worked analytically. What I did with my training as a player and how I transitioned to the coaching side still has some sort of basis in objective data. I never like trying to make a change with a player if I don’t have hard data to support it. It was always very integrated in my mind, using the two together.”
Former Section V standout Chris Bostick (Aquinas) played with Myrtle Beach in 2014 in what was then called the Carolina League. The Cubs selected Penfield’s Gage Ziehl in the 11th round of the most recent MLB Draft.
Fellow Churchville-Chili alum Tim Redding was a 20th round selection of the Houston Astros in the 1997 draft. Redding went on to pitch in 179 MLB games.
Currently in second place in the Low-A South Division with a record of 48-49, Myrtle Beach plays its last game of the regular season on September 19th.
“This role is basically what I wanted. Something where I could bridge the gap between the analytics and on-the-field. If someone would have told me I’d be doing this eventually, I would have believed it. How soon I was able to get into it was definitely a blessing.”