BRADENTON, Fla. – Canada's moment in the World Baseball Classic may have come and gone. But Russell Martin found out Wednesday that his newfound villain status among Canadians lives on.
The Pirates' catcher, who withdrew from Team Canada's WBC roster at the last minute, was booed lustily by the Canadians in the crowd during his team's 5-4 win Wednesday over the Blue Jays.
So afterward, he found himself defending his decision not to play in the WBC yet one more time.
"When people boo, they're just having fun with it. I don't think they really, truly hate me," said Martin, who was born in East York, Ontario, and did play in the previous WBC. "Maybe they're a little emotional about the fact that I didn't go, but I had my reasons. And I know my reason is a good one because it's a reason that made me feel good inside.
"It's not the reason that everybody expected. But my decision was a good one because I felt happy about it. And it's not about what everybody else expects me to do. That’s not the right decision. The right decision is the one that makes you feel good inside. So people can debate all they want. The only person that really needs to know if it was the right or wrong decision was me. And I’m happy, because I've been here. I've been working with the pitchers. And I feel like my preparation is where it needs to be."
Martin’s true interest in playing in the WBC had been a topic of much debate north of the border even before his decision to withdraw. After being named to the team, he said he wanted to play shortstop instead of catcher because he wanted to allow his body to ease into the grind of catching.
He finally backed out once and for all after being slowed this spring by an inflamed throwing shoulder. He didn't play in the field for the Pirates, in fact, until after the WBC had already begun. But he was criticized by several members of Team Canada, most prominently Justin Morneau. And clearly, Canadian fans haven't forgotten.
"It's part of the game,” Martin said Wednesday. “If they boo me forever, so be it. I'll get over it. I've seen guys be booed, and some take it personally. And some others know that it's just part of the game. It's just the crowd getting involved. I think it's kind of fun. I use it as motivation, to be honest. The more people who don’t believe I can do something, that makes me want to do it even more. You find out how strong you are when people say you can't do this or do that."
The loudest boos came before Martin’s third at-bat, whereupon he promptly singled and pointed to the crowd.
"I was just like, 'That was for you guys,' " he said.