Daniel Martin finds a way to stay on the mound

The end is always coming.

It’s out there, and every second that ticks past brings it closer.

For some, the end is too far away to think too much about it. And for very few, the end will come softened with riches, fame, and sometimes, glory.

But it’s still an end, and that is something that is shared by every person who decides to lace ’em up sometime, somewhere.

Daniel Martin could sense his end approaching. Always. And interestingly, he was fine with it. A crafty left-handed pitcher from Lee County, Martin knew his potential better than most anybody.

Because his potential was essentially what he already had.

After leaving the Yellow Jackets, Martin caught on at Pitt Community College in Greenville. He pitched well, so well in fact that he started to draw the attention of nearby East Carolina.

But the university had garnered Martin’s attention at the same time, and he liked the idea of finishing his time in college on a major campus. But when the Pirates baseball coach moved on a few weeks after he told the pitcher he would have a shot to walk on, it appeared that the kid’s baseball career had come to a screeching halt.

Some might’ve wondered whether they had made a tragic mistake, taking a chance with the big boys rather than safely finding a home on a Division-II or smaller diamond.

Not Martin.

“I knew I had a chance to go to some D-2, or D-3 programs, but I liked Greenville,” Martin says. “I was the kind of guy who never really had a Division-1 opportunity, but I knew I still wanted to play ball.”

Knowing his shot at walking on with the Pirates was gone with the new coaching staff aboard, Martin found the next best thing. And he found it in Greenville. On campus.

Club Baseball.

More than 75 players tried out for East Carolina’s Club Baseball team in the fall, and Martin, known well by the ECU Club coaches after his success at Pitt, made the team as a starting pitcher. He’s worked 12 innings so far this season, has a minuscule 1.50 ERA and is 3-0, tied for the second-most wins in — wait for it — the nation.

“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” says Martin, who was recently honored as the conference’s pitcher of the week. “It’s a little more laid back, but it’s still really good competition. You still get to enjoy the college experience and play ball at a high level.”

Intramurals this is not. ECU is a part of the South Division in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, along with Club teams from North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Charlotte and Elon. And the conference is a part of the National Club Baseball Association, where Club teams from Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, Texas, Michigan — and the list goes on and on — compete.

“We have a world series and everything,” says Martin, a member of the nationally sixth-ranked Pirates. “We’re all still playing for a grand prize.”

But most of all, they’re all still playing, period. Club Baseball has given the junior-eligible Martin a chance to hold onto his spikes and his glove for another couple of years. And to him, and potentially others like him, that’s all that matters.

“There are a lot of guys out there like me,” he says. “It’s just a great way to keep playing ball while going to a big school. You don’t have to settle.”

There will come a time when Daniel Martin won’t be able to play baseball anymore. He knows that better than anybody.

But for now, and next season, he knows he can still toe the rubber, glance over his shoulder at the runner as he goes into the stretch, and feel the rush of competition with runners on base and the game on the line.

“That’s the great thing,” he says. “This isn’t church softball.”

They’ll be plenty of time for that.

Just not now.

Not yet.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, East Carolina Pirates, Lee County High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

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