What do artists and first ball fastball pitchers have in common? They both paint the corners.
Four years ago Jereko Martinez was the first athlete in Wind River High School history to sign a national letter of intent to play baseball. Now in his final season at Dakota Wesleyan University, he’s ready to step out into the working world.
“Things are going good,” Martinez said. “I’m applying for a few jobs, and I’m looking at some MBA programs. I applied for one here and the one at the University of Wyoming.”
He is scheduled to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Martinez carries a 3.4 grade point average, not always an easy thing to do when traveling from wintry South Dakota to warmer climates is part of playing baseball on the high plains.
Martinez started as a pitcher and outfield, but after his sophomore year, he only appears on the mound.
“I’m a PO (pitcher only), I’ve been a starter the last two years,” Martinez said. “In the fall at practice, I threw 87 to 88 mph, in games I’m sitting around 85 to 86. I’d like to throw 90.”
In his progress through four years of NAIA level college baseball Martinez has become a student of the art of pitching.
“Fastball, curve, and slider, and I have a change up,” Martinez said. “On a first time batter, the coaches call pitches. We have the stats of other players, if they’re a big home run hitter we obviously don’t throw fastballs inside. I’m good at painting the corners then coming at them with a change-up.”
The 6-0 right-hander has four starts this spring.
“If they’re on time, depending on their timing, we go with an off-speed pitch usually a slider,” Martinez said. “Lots of times they’ll take the fastball. Coaches still go by pitch count they don’t want us to go over 100 pitches. If we’re throwing well they’ll occasionally let us throw longer.”
As a junior, he tallied 28 strikeouts in 34 2/3s innings with nine plate appearances and seven starts.
The weather in eastern South Dakota has been similar to here in Wyoming, and games have been postponed or canceled. Early in the season they always start on the road in the sunny south.
“We had to postpone three games, and move home games to away because of the snow,” Martinez said. “A lot of teams we played already had 20 games under their belt when we played our first game.”
Martinez is used to traveling to play baseball since he lives in the valley and attended Wind River High School and had to commute each day to Roy Peck Field for practice.
While a Cougar Martinez played football and basketball, was active in FFA judging, and earned awards at the Fremont County Fair in pottery.
The transition from Wyoming Legion A level baseball to the college game came with a steep learning curve.
“Everything is a lot faster. Once you get here your freshman year it all becomes surreal, everyone is the best player on the team they came from,” Martinez said. “The pitching here is a lot better than what we saw in legion A. Everybody’s ace starter throws close to 90. It’s faster paced, and a little bit better. The hitting is a lot better too.”
A hard worker, Martinez is dedicated to the weight room as well as the classroom.
“I knew that everyone was going to be better, and I had to become a better player. Once you’re thrown into it you have to work hard to get where you want to be,” Martinez said. “In the fall it’s three days a week in the weight room as a team, I lift six days a week total. I believe in the weight room 100%. People think you’re going to lose your mobility and quickness, but if you’re training right, the weight room is the best thing you can do as an athlete.”
There is an independent baseball option for players with his skill level, but he is ready to pursue his career after his final season is over this spring.
He is looking at working in finance in a bank or perhaps an insurance company and already has his health insurance license.
“Ultimately I’d like to get some experience and start my own company,” Martinez said.
He is the son of Jeremy and Kathy Martinez.