Nationals

Martinez to wear 21 in honor of his idol Roberto Clemente

Nationals

Davey Martinez watched other games Wednesday between naps. The Nationals were off for the first time in 19 days, finally dropping demands to go to the park and take the field. So, he took a break.

Martinez stayed home. On the TV were a variety of people doing what he is looking forward to doing himself on Thursday (if they play): wear No. 21.

Roberto Clemente Day was Wednesday. Players and coaches around the league wore No. 21 to honor the Hall of Famer and humanitarian. The Nationals have their chance to follow suit Thursday -- or Friday if rain postpones the game.

Martinez idolizes Clemente. As a kid in New York, he wore No. 21 for football, but couldn’t bring himself to do so for baseball. Thursday, he plans to wear the number and has asked the Nationals coaching staff to join him.

“What he represents is unity,” Martinez said. “And, I thought it would be nice to have the coaches as well represent 21. He means a lot not only to the Latin community, but to the baseball community [because of] what he’s done. Not only as a player, but a humanitarian.”

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Major League Baseball is yet to retire 21 in the same league-wide manner it retired 42 for Jackie Robinson.

ESPN first reported that the Clemente family gave clearance to any MLB Puerto Rican player who wanted to wear No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day this year. A letter signed by Clemente’s children was sent to MLB and the MLBPA.

 

Several players jumped at the offer, including Francisco Lindor and Yadier Molina.

“The way he played the game was kind of how my dad wanted to play the game,” Lindor told reporters. “By my dad playing the game like that, even though he didn’t play the game professionally, my dad taught me the game that way. Being aggressive, having fun, and then after you do all that, you go out there and help others and you become a great person off the field.”

No Pittsburgh player has worn Clemente’s No. 21 on the field since his death in 1972.