Richie Martin stands with former Bloomingdale baseball players after he threw out the first pitch.

On February 27, Richie Martin became the first player in Bloomingdale High School baseball history to have his #12 jersey retired. Bloomingdale held a ceremony at its baseball field before its game against East Bay. The only other person to have his number retired at Bloomingdale is former Head Coach K. B. Scull (#8), who the field is named after.

“It meant the world,” said Martin. “Bloomingdale is home for me, so to be able to come back and see friends, coaches and teammates I haven’t seen for a while was special.”

Bloomingdale baseball alumni had gathered around the mound as Baltimore Orioles shortstop Richie Martin threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former high school teammate and current catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization, Sal Giardina Jr. The crowd of former teammates, families and friends went wild as Martin threw a strike down the middle of the plate for a strike.

“We all knew right away that Richie was something special his freshman year,” said Giardina. “He flashed great qualities as a player and was mature beyond his years. He was one of the hardest working and most humble guys on the team and is still like that to this day. I’m grateful that I had the chance to share the field with him in high school. As much of an awesome player he is, he is an even better person—one of the most genuine people you will ever meet.”

Martin played for Bloomingdale from 2009-2012, becoming one of the most decorated Bulls in the history of the program, starting all four years on varsity. As a senior, he hit .438 and was selected to the all-state team.

Martin was drafted out of high school in the 38th round of the 2012 MLB draft, but he decided to go to college and play for the University of Florida instead. At UF, he started all three seasons, coming up one game short of winning the College World Series against Virginia in his final junior season.

Martin was then selected in the first round (20th overall) of the 2015 draft by Billy Bean and the Oakland Athletics. He played in the Oakland minor league system for four seasons before being selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the first overall pick in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.

He made his MLB debut on Opening Day 2019 against the New York Yankees. He played 90 games at shortstop last season for the Orioles, finishing his rookie season with six home runs and 10 stolen bases. He expects to compete for a roster spot in 2020 with Baltimore

Austin Wilson came in as a freshman starter with Martin in 2009. Wilson, who is now an assistant coach at Bloomingdale, remains close friends with Martin and reminisces playing alongside him.

“He plays the game the same way all the time,” said Wilson. “A guy like that is special because he leads by example. He shows everyone, young and old, that there’s only one way to play this game, and that’s hard, all the time, regardless of score or inning or result.”

Bloomingdale Head Coach Kris Wilken said that Martin’s baseball instincts, work ethic and God-given ability are what make him such a great baseball player. Wilken expressed how Martin’s greatest asset is his character first and foremost.

“Thank you to him for never changing who he is and never forgetting where he came from,” said Wilken. “He was a great player, but I miss coaching him because of what he was and still is as a person way more than anything he did on the field.”

Wilson will always remember playing with Martin and is one of his biggest fans.

“He deserves it, every bit of it. I mean, the kid is a big leaguer,” said Wilson. “I couldn’t be happier for him and wish him nothing but the best. It’s awesome to see the number 12 out there in center field for the rest of time.”

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.