For the first time in almost 10 years, Nick Martini can be a Cubs’ fan again.
Martini, a 2008 Prairie Ridge graduate who grew up in Crystal Lake and frequently attended games at Wrigley Field, has signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs.
The deal was actually signed on Jan. 2 and is now listed by the Cubs in their transactions at MLBcom.
“He is so excited,” said Scott Martini, Nick’s father. “Could you imagine if you grew up, and now to have the opportunity to play for that team? It’s incredible. We’re extremely excited and extremely proud.”
Martini, who throws and bats left-handed, spent his first seven minor league seasons with St. Louis, then parts of the last three seasons with Oakland, San Diego, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Martini had his best professional season with Oakland in 2018, when he made it to the major leagues and was part of the A’s AL wild-card team. He led off in the wild-card playoff game against the New York Yankees.
Martini hit .296 that season with a .397 on-base percentage in 55 games. He played six games with the A’s in 2019, then was picked up on waivers by San Diego and played 26 games with the Padres.
In Martini’s first at-bat at Wrigley Field, against the Cubs on Aug. 5, 2019, he hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer after an 11-pitch battle with reliever Steve Cishek. Scott and Kris Martini (Nick’s mother) and sisters (Maddy and Hannah) were in the front row of the left-field bleachers, along with several family friends, to see his big hit.
Cincinnati picked up Martini off waivers in November of 2019, then Philadelphia selected him off waivers before the 2020 season. With the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the season, Martini did not get a chance to play with the Phillies’ major-league club.
Martini played for Prairie Ridge’s 2008 Class 4A state championship team as the Wolves center fielder and also was used as their closer, throwing near 90 mph.
Martini played college baseball for three seasons at Kansas State before he was taken in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals.
At Kansas State, Martini left after his junior season, but still remains in the top 10 of several of the Wildcats’ offensive categories. He has their longest hitting streak (26 games), ranks No. 2 in hits for one season (96 in 2010), is seventh in career batting average and hits (.360 and 246) and ninth in career RBIs (153).
Martini worked his way through the Cardinals’ organization to Triple-A and was granted free agency following the 2017 season. With Oakland, he had his breakthrough season.
The A’s liked Martini’s disciplined approach at the plate, where he walked 21 times in 55 games in 2018. But in 2019 spring training, Martini had a cleat stick in the warning track while chasing a foul ball and twisted a knee. The injury did not require surgery, but needed time to heal, pushing him back a few months.
In August, he returned to the A’s and hit his big Chicago homer, but was waived after six appearances. He was picked up by San Diego for the remainder of the 2019 season, then by Cincinnati in November and by Philadelphia in January of 2020.