Deep down, Kevin Martinez always knew he’d end up working in baseball.
“It was a sport that was always at the foundation of my family,” he says.
His father played at the minor league level, and Martinez and his two older brothers played throughout high school. A game was always on TV at the Central Jersey family home, and they routinely made the trip into “the city” to see the Mets or the Yankees.
Martinez didn’t know anyone when he came to the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. All he knew was that he wanted to work in sports as a broadcast journalist.
His time at Newhouse and various stints at WAER-FM, UUTV, CBS affiliate WTVH and WJPZ-FM gave him the fundamentals that he needed to jump into a career in journalism.
He worked in the sports department at WTVH in Syracuse. It was a coveted position for a young undergraduate, giving him the opportunity to learn the ropes of play-by-play and sports production.
“My time there taught me to be a great writer, and it definitely taught me discipline,” he remembers with a chuckle.
Martinez quickly built the confidence that is required to succeed in sports journalism. He cites his friendship with Mike Tirico ’88 as one of his largest influences, and says it encouraged him to come out of his shell.
“Back in the day, WAER was in the Newhouse School and I remember taking the elevator up there as a freshman and just being so nervous,” he recalls. “But, as with anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get.”
Immediately after leaving Newhouse, Martinez moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work in radio at a small station, and then to New York City to work for an ABC affiliate.
Then, a mere two years after graduation, Martinez was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to work for a Major League Baseball team.
He embraced the career-pivot wholeheartedly, joining the Seattle Mariners’ marketing team in the early 90s.
The opportunity to work for an MLB team was a “no brainer” even if it meant he had to move across the country.
“It was very scary,” he reminisces. “I didn’t know a soul here in Seattle.”
For Martinez, the cross-country leap of faith was worth it.
“At that time of our lives, we make a lot of decisions that make us uncomfortable,” he says.
It’s safe to say he’s never looked back, and is now serving as senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Mariners.
Aside from a brief stint with the Boston Celtics, he’s worked for the Mariners for a large part of his career—nearly 25 years. He has guided the marketing department through the explosion of the digital age and the content opportunities that have been created.
At this point in his career, he spends most of his time interacting with the other department heads in the organization.
“When I started, it was much more about hands-on projects,” Martinez says. “Now, I moreso give directions and support.”
He oversees commercial programming, ballpark giveaway promotions, special events, social media and the broadcasting team, and regularly works with the regional sports network. Basically, he gets the Mariners’ brand into the Seattle market any way he can.
In addition to all of his in-house responsibilities, Martinez has almost daily calls with the general manager and executive sports producer of Root Sports Northwest.
His oversight over several different areas requires him to lean on his team and direct reports regularly. In his words, he focuses on “what is on the horizon right now.”
Fellow Syracuse University alumnus Gregg Greene, vice president of marketing with the Mariners, has a tremendous amount of respect for his boss.
“I’m as close to Kevin as I am to my wife,” he says with a laugh.
Greene and Martinez work together for long hours daily inside T-Mobile Park, with both men citing the dedication that a career in baseball operations entails.
Greene attributes Martinez’s passion for baseball as his motivation for success. Recently, the Mariners marketing department created a 35-minute documentary on American League Rookie of the Year winner Kyle Lewis entirely in-house.
“Kevin got up in front of the entire organization and listed everyone involved, almost like credits at the end of a movie,” Greene says. “He went out of his way to thank every single last person involved and show appreciation for them.”
Though Martinez may have felt lonely when he first arrived in Seattle decades ago, he doesn’t have that problem anymore.
“I started at the Mariners when I was about 23 years old, and there was a guy that started playing on the field pretty much around the same time,” Martinez says.
That guy was Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
He’ll vacation with Griffey occasionally, and lists Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner and Felix Hernandez as some of his closest friends.
“I’m friends with all of these players now, but those real friendships really developed once they retired, moved away from the game,” Martinez says.
His career has given him friendships with some of baseball’s brightest stars. Yet, his relationships from St. Thomas Aquinas (formerly Bishop George Ahr) High School in Edison, New Jersey, have lasted a lifetime. In his limited free time, he serves as the commissioner of his high school fantasy football league, a position he’s been passionate about for 32 years.
“In the league’s early years, Kevin would calculate the scores by hand from USA Today and mail out newsletters to the league members every week,” longtime league member Rich Wenskoski ’91 remembers.
Wenskoski, a fellow Newhouse and Bishop Ahr alumnus, recalls being shown around the Syracuse University campus by Martinez on the first night of his freshman year. It was the fall of 1987 and Martinez was a senior, a DJ at a popular bar on campus called Braggs, and a brother in a fraternity.
“I saw him many more times that year, and he was always eager to be a mentor and give a freshman some advice,” Wenskoski recalls. “He’s the kind of friend everybody wants to have.”
Seattle is his home now. Yet, he remains forever Orange.
Martinez credits the Syracuse University alumni network as a large factor in his success. He says that he runs into fellow alumni nearly every day in the communications business, and that the connection immediately brings conversations to a deeper level.
Through it all, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I have been incredibly blessed and I love every minute of it”
Ashley Wenskoski is a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.