For the Martin family, baseball has been life changing. When Russell Martin Sr. could see his son, Russell Jr., had a special talent in baseball, he began to play music in the Montreal subway system so he'd have the flexibility in his schedule to practice baseball with his son. "I could make enough money to get myself through school and look after us," Martin Sr. said. "Not enough to buy any extras or anything. We were on a very tight budget, but it gave me the freedom to be with him and keep him going in [baseball].
"He had something about him that made me attend to it. It's like I didn't have a choice, it's exactly what I wanted to do. And it's really helped me out as a person, too -- to have a contribution in something like that." Baseball for this father and son go back to nearly the beginning of Russell Jr.'s life. In fact, maybe far enough back to where Russell Jr. has no memories to speak of. His father said he was 2 years old when he started playing ball with his son. But now, Russell Jr. is 23 years old, and there are so many memories involving baseball and his dad, that when asked about a favorite, he can't pick one. "I'd have to get back to you on that," Russell Jr. said. After thinking about it a few moments longer, he said, "Probably my first game at Expos Stadium, my first Major League Baseball game. I don't really remember how old I was. I just remember walking into the stadium and seeing this huge ballpark," Martin said. "When you walk in ... just the smell and everything. It just brings back memories." On June 3, it was Russell Jr.'s turn to return the favor. Russell Sr. made the trip from Canada for a game at Dodger Stadium, the first time he'd seen his son play in the big leagues. "I've been around this kind of excitement [in sports] my whole life, but I've never been this overwhelmed," Russell Sr. said before his son took the field against the Phillies. "To me, baseball is like religion. Because you can't play without faith and a real strong belief in who you are and what you're doing at the moment," Russell Sr. said. Not to say that baseball players are spiritual or religious people, I'm just saying that when they're playing, you can't do it without a high, high degree of faith and belief in yourself -- and that's what religion is." Call it religion, or call something entirely different. For father and son, baseball was worth changing everything, which brought them closer. For his dad and for baseball, Russell Jr. is now getting to return the favor.
Amanada Branam is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.