When one looks at a resume and can’t describe that person as anything else but a winner, one knows that the person in question has gone about life the right way.
That, however, is how Wade Martin prefers to roll.
Over the course of his baseball career, the six-foot college junior-to-be, despite a simply incredible baseball pedigree that included two state titles and four consecutive Division III OHSAA Final Four appearances, couldn’t seem to get away from the labels that college coaches were putting on him.
Fastball’s not fast enough. Breaking ball doesn’t break enough. Too short.
Martin, however, has once again, overcome all of those doubts. The Marshall University standout, behind a 4.12 ERA in arguably the second-deepest conference in all of college baseball from a talent standpoint, obtained Second-Team All-Conference USA honors for his pitching performance as a sophomore — a brilliant accomplishment regardless of those who have heard of the standout’s name, but of little surprise to those who know the winning attitude that Martin has possessed throughout his entire life.
Where does that confidence come from, you ask? The Wheelersburg baseball program, and the people involved in the Wheelersburg community.
“It all goes back to the program at Wheelersburg,” Martin said. “The work ethic that (Michael) Estep was able to instill in me while I was still at Wheelersburg was tremendous. He created such an infectious atmosphere for us to be able to enjoy. It was all about taking pride in ourselves, our program, and the work that we put in to know that we were a good team, but at the same time, realizing that wins weren’t just going to fall into our lap because we were good. The success that I had in high school allowed me to take on the challenge of pitching at Marshall and what that represented in a strong baseball conference.”
One of those individuals that never wavered in his overall opinion of Martin was Josh Newman, who just accepted the Penn State head coaching position last Wednesday after spending the last four seasons with the Thundering Herd. A 2000 graduate of Wheelersburg High School himself, Newman has always believed that Martin has the intangibles to excel, going as far to say that the fellow Pirate is the best person that he has ever coached.
“I’m so thankful to have an opportunity to recruit a young man like Wade,” Newman said. “So many people were questioning if he threw hard enough, but he overcame those doubts. He is a winner. There’s special people that have a chance to impact you in your lifetime, but of all of them, he’s the most special person I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached first round draft picks and recruited guys that have gone on to play in the major leagues. He is a winner in life and is an absolute blueprint of a guy that I want to recruit in the future.”
From his first year on the hill, it was clear that Martin was going to be a special product simply due to his will to win. After learning under future Shawnee State University signee and All-MSC product Derek Moore — winning two state titles as the team’s No. 2 starter — Martin held down the No. 1 slot for the remainder of his high school career, showing many of the exact same traits that made Moore such a difficult person to match up against. Martin led the Pirates to back-to-back OHSAA State Final Four appearances as the 2015 ‘Burg graduate helped Wheelersburg accumulate over 100 wins during his four years in a Pirate uniform.
“Derek’s a great guy,” Martin said. “What I loved most about him was his will to win. Obviously, that shows in his record (36-0). He was a guy who refused to lose a game, and found a way to put us in a position to win games. That was my goal. Every time I looked at that, it reinforced the reasoning behind giving everything that you have, and as a result, I gave everything that I had in order to put my team in a position to win.”
As Martin began to develop his own relationship amongst the elite pitching products that have come out of Wheelersburg, college interest came calling for the young standout. But despite being tabbed as a 2014 Underclass Honorable Mention and 2015 Central Region Honorable Mention selction from Perfect Game in addition to the litany of All-SOC, All-District, and All-State honors that the standout obtained, college coaches shied away due to measurables.
But Newman — who had forged a bond with Martin well before the Marshall pitching coach started to recruit his future pitching talent — knew the kind of qualities that the 6-0, 200-pounder brought to the table.
“With (Josh) Newman being a Wheelersburg grad, he proved to be a diehard Wheelersburg fan, too,” Martin said. “Before he even started the recruiting process, we started our relationship. After football games or baseball games, he’d congratulate me and stuff, even before the recruiting process started. With understanding the positions that he was in at Ohio State and Marshall, it was a goal of mine to catch his full attention. To have someone like him — who graduated from your high school, and went on to pitch in the major leagues — seeing that potential in me to fulfill a role on a Division I pitching staff was such a great honor. At times, when I didn’t feel like I wasn’t good enough or performing good enough, Coach Newman was there to remind me of those times that I’d stepped up in a big situation and come through.”
That made the Martin-to-Marshall connection a perfect fit — on just one condition.
“I wanted Wade to be who he is,” Newman said. “Yes, he throws 85 to 88 miles per hour. But I wanted him to be comfortable knowing that we believe in him, and that we wanted him to be Wade Martin.”
With his recruitment out of the way and a full-ride scholarship at his feet, Martin, the once highly-doubted college prospect, wasted little time making good on the wishes of his future pitching coach.
After recording 15 strikeouts in 17 and one-third innings of work as a freshman, the former Wheelersburg ace wasted no time soaring up the pitching rotation en route to becoming Marshall’s ace of the staff.
By the end of the season, Martin’s 4.24 ERA, 87 innings pitched, 77 strikeouts, and .242 batting average against all proved to be team-best statistics. To top those accomplishments off, the 6-0 sophomore collected a strikeout-to-walk ratio that sat above a 3-to-1 mark while showing off that same command that made him such a valuable asset to the Pirates’ success, and earned All-Academic Conference USA honors for his efforts in the classroom as a business administration and health care management major.
“And there were 10 guys drafted from Conference USA in the first five rounds this past year,” Newman said. “That was second behind the SEC. He’s an unbelievable talent, an unbelievable player, and an unbelievable person who has a contagious personality.”
“My freshman year was a growing process, to say the least, as far as rediscovering my talents at the next level and making myself an effective pitcher at a Division I school,” Martin said. “But ultimately, I was able to take the confidence that I had gained from high school, and use it to lead the team on Friday nights as a sophomore. It was just a mentality that I had, knowing that I’m able to execute pitches at the college level and knowing that I’m able to execute my pitches when I need to.”
With all that he’s accomplished at just 21 years of age, the sky — which could eventually include a career in professional baseball — is certainly the limit for Wade Martin. However, in true winning fashion, he’s more concerned about how he can make the Marshall University baseball program better.
“That’s the dream,” Martin said. “Every baseball player has dreamed that since they were a little kid laying in bed at night pitching in the major leagues. That’s an awesome thought, and to think that I might have the opportunity to call in the MLB Draft next June is awesome. As of now, however, I’m more focused on providing leadership as an upperclassmen. I want to be approachable for the younger and newer guys coming up. I want to share what I have, and be a motivator along with an encourager. I want my teammates to know that I’m not going to miss or skip any reps.”
And those words are something that doesn’t surprise Newman in the slightest.
“Wade shows up every single day wanting to get better,” Newman said. “He’s an unbelievable, All-American type person.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7