By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
There were times through the season I was frustrated with John Martin.
As a fan, it’s easy to second-guess a call, to question a coach’s judgment on sending a player home, or stealing a base and have the runner thrown out.
There was the game against the Dodge City A’s when a position player was brought in to pitch, and a big lead turned in to a loss.
At the time, from my perspective, each of these decisions was a mistake in the game that was being played.
For my tastes, Martin was just too aggressive, and I believed that aggression was going to come back to haunt the Bee Jays.
Instead, it was that aggression that resulted in a national championship.
Martin was instilling in his payers faith that they can do what he is asking them to do and an expectation that they will be called upon to possibly do more than they thought they could.
It was the removal of hesitation from his players that led them to round third base and head home expecting to score. It was that reckless abandon that led to stolen base after stolen base. It was that attitude of swinging for the fences that led to home runs.
Did those calls pay off in the first two or three weeks of the season? Not always. Several Bee Jays were gunned down at home plate.
But at the national tournament, where a stolen base here, or a sacrifice there makes all the difference, the Bee Jays reflected the fiery attitude of their coach, not with their word, but with their style of play.
Martin also had to find his own identity outside of a very large shadow. But he never ran from the comparisons that would surely come between his style and that of Mike Hargrove. Instead, he embraced it. He pointed out that Hargrove had an influence on his coaching, and so did Galen McSpadden. Martin answered his critics, including me, by winning the first seven games of the season, by fighting through a mid-seaosn slump and finishing the regular season strong, missing the league title by two and a half games.
Throughout the season, fan support was strong with LIberal drawing some of the largest non-fourth of July crowds since making the move to Brent Gould Field.
He took his team all the way to the national championship and won it.
He did it his way, and as the Bee Jays continued to win at the NBC World Series, Martin earned more and more respect.
Martin’s name will now be forever enshrined in the history of the Bee Jays as the manager that won the 2010 national championship.
Coach Martin, you accomplished what the Bee Jay fans have been deprived of for 10 years. You gave us a national championship.
Thanks, coach. You earned it.