Pedro Martinez poses for a photo with Slugger the Sea Dog as fans swarm around him at the Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner at Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks on Wednesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)
SOUTH PORTLAND — The memorabilia for the auction was impressive, but fans fled from the photos and souvenirs, hurrying to the middle of the room.
They swarmed around the man they’d come to meet, hoping for a photo together.
It’s not every day that Pedro Martinez walks in.
Martinez, 46, the Hall of Fame pitcher, made his anticipated appearance at the Portland Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner on Wednesday night at the Sable Oaks Marriott.
The event, which benefits the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, was sold out in two hours when Martinez’s appearance was announced last month.
After a brief news conference, Martinez joined fans in a nearby room, where the silent auction was taking place. Bids were put on hold as fans crowded around him. Phones came out for pictures, and there were handshakes and several references to 2004 — when Martinez helped the Red Sox end an 86-year championship drought.
Martinez now works for the Red Sox as an adviser. But he is also a fan and, like everyone else, he is waiting for the team’s president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, to make another move.
“The Red Sox, we still need a big bat behind Mookie and those guys,” Martinez said. “We picked up (Mitch) Moreland, who did a great job last year. But I still believe we need another big bat.
“Our pitching staff needs to stay healthy, especially David Price, who is a big, big piece for us. Eduardo Rodriguez needs to come back and be healthy. We can fill up the space for (Dustin Pedroia, who is recovering from knee surgery) until he comes back, with the many prospects we have in the infield.”
Martinez talked fondly of the 2004 World Series, but what stood out in his mind was the Red Sox falling behind the Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series.
“I was really angry,” he said. “I couldn’t stand the fact that we were as good as the Yankees, maybe better, and we were behind, and in such a bad way. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t believe we were going away without winning a game.”
Of course, Boston did win, taking four straight games. Martinez started Game 5 and relieved in Game 7.
That 2004 season was Martinez’s last in Boston, as he became a free agent and signed a four-year deal with the Mets. His career ended with the Phillies in 2009 when he faced the Yankees in the World Series, losing two starts.
Now, Martinez is a tutor to young pitchers — “it’s our duty to pass on what we know” — a job that has brought him to Hadlock Field a few times. This week was his first visit to Maine in the winter.
“It’s really beautiful,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the summer, though.”
One of his sons, Pedro Martinez Jr., is a third baseman who recently signed with the Detroit Tigers for a reported $800,000.
“He’s getting there. He’s working,” Martinez said. “If you ask me, I think he has some talent. But there are things he can work on to become better.”
Martinez is a keen observer of the game, a talent he brings to MLB Network, as well as TBS during the playoffs.
“I have a lot more respect for the media. Whatever you say, you have to be accountable for it,” he said. “The players are paying attention. So, if I say something out of place, I’ll hear, ‘Oh, Pedro forgot how difficult the game is.’
“But I understand the game. I speak from experience.”
Martinez spoke later to the 500 dinner guests, with Sea Dogs radio man Mike Antonellis acting as master of ceremonies. Other guests included new Sea Dogs manager Darren Fenster, Sea Dogs slugger Jeremy Barfield and Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett.
Martinez’s appearance helped raise money to support children with cancer. Martinez has been involved is several charitable causes, recently working to raise money for hurricane victims in the Caribbean and Florida.
“It’s always great being able to give back, to be able to, without much effort, bring smiles to so many people’s faces and to help the community,” he said.
Pedro Martinez speaks with the media before the Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner featuring Pedro Martinez at Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks on Wednesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)Pedro Martinez is swarmed by fans before the Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner featuring Pedro Martinez at Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks on Wednesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)Pedro Martinez talks with Javier Gorriti, left, and Chris Sedenka of The Big Jab Sports Radio before the Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner featuring Pedro Martinez at Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks on Wednesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)