Eric Martinez doesn’t hide the fact that the baseball Gods have shined on him time and time again in his brief high school baseball coaching career.
It happened again Wednesday morning for the former Alice Coyote baseball player, and this time it was big. Martinez, after only four years of working as a high school baseball coach, was hired as the head baseball coach at Mathis High School.
The 26-year-old coach was hired by Trae Stevens, another young coach, whom earlier this year was hired as Mathis’ head coach and athletic director.
“I’ve just been blessed and lucky,” Martinez said. “I’ve just tried to work hard and I guess people noticed. I have a passion for the game, and if you have a passion for what you do, it’s not a job. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun.”
Martinez replaces former Alice baseball coach Rene Chavez, who headed up the Class 3A program this past season.
The Pirates were 9-13 and 4-8 this season and missed the state playoffs. Martinez, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Ray High School in Corpus Christi, said he hopes to change the Pirates' fortunes.
Martinez’s interested in coaching baseball began in high school in 2011 after his senior year with the Alice Coyotes ended in the first round of the state playoffs. Alice’s early exit left him with some unexpected free time after school so one day he went to Bobby Cuellar Park to watch a neighbor’s Little League baseball game. While he was there, he ran into Robert Gomez, who was one of his youth baseball coaches growing up. Martinez ended up volunteering to help coach the team. The Little League Giants finished that season playing for the city championship, which meant Martinez was also able to coach the league’s 10-and-under all-star team that summer.
Martinez was hooked after that. He ended up organizing the South Texas Bullets, a select team made up of area youth players.
By the time he enrolled at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, he knew he wanted to be a baseball coach. He continued working with his select team. By chance, he was able to land a role as a volunteer student assistant coach at John Paul II where he served under South Texas coaching legends Steve Castillo and Steve Castro. Then, when it came time to begin his student teaching before graduating from TAMUK, he ended up at Calallen High School. There, the work he did at John Paul II with Castillo and Castro helped him land a role as an assistant in the Wildcats baseball program under coach Steve Chapman, another South Texas high school baseball icon.
After graduating, he ended up coaching at Corpus Christi Miller and then at Ray.
“I think God has put me in front of coaches who have really propelled me to where I am and where I’m headed,” Martinez said. “I’ve learned from a lot of great coaches, and at Ray, I’ve not only learned more about coaching baseball, but I’ve learned how to run a program.”