<
>

Life on the ranch with future cattle farmer Victor Martinez

play
Victor Martinez's love for cattle farming (1:05)

Tigers DH Victor Martinez plans to become a cattle farmer after retiring from baseball. (1:05)

DETROIT -- The bulky yellow book looked out of place. Peeking out of the bottom cubby of Victor Martinez's locker in the Chicago White Sox visiting clubhouse last October, it was like one of those back-of-the-magazine riddles: Which one is not like the other?

As other players packed up their belongings following the season-ending loss, the veteran designated hitter added the neon tome to his suitcase. It was a gift from his agent, some offseason reading -- "Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies."

Some players return home once their careers are done. Some remain in the cities where they spent the majority of their careers. Many make sure that wherever they put down permanent roots, it's a place where the golf is good.

But Martinez's retirement plans don't involve a 9-iron or a putting green.

"Golf?" Martinez said, playfully shaking his head. "That's not for me."

Instead, Martinez wants to fulfill his longstanding post-career wish of owning a cattle farm. He has already started laying the master plans, even if retirement isn't in the immediate future.

The 37-year-old designated hitter, who owns the fourth-best batting average in the American League at .333, spent a good chunk of the past winter learning about the cattle farming business, scouting locations, talking to farmers and making plans of his own. That preparation culminated earlier this spring, when he closed on an expansive plot of land -- 2,400 acres in Okeechobee, Florida. That's approximately 95 miles from his permanent home in Lake Nona, a suburban community within the city limits of Orlando.

Martinez is building a new home on the property in addition to the four-bedroom house that already exists; his new abode will come equipped with a workout facility for him to train in the offseason, including a weight room and batting cage. Martinez joins the property's other residents: 475 cows -- 340 calves and 135 pregnant.

"It's just peaceful," Martinez told ESPN.com, laughing and mimicking the sounds the cows make.

Martinez hails from Ciudad Bolivar, the capital of Venezuela's southeastern state. His uncles on his mother's side had a farm that he loved visiting as a kid. He would watch his uncles and ranch hands milk the cows in the morning and remembers people drinking milk straight from the cows, though he can't recall if he was ever that brave.

Martinez's wife, Margret, grew up just three minutes away from his childhood home. She also has farms in her family. They're a fond memory for the couple, who have been together since Martinez was 17 years old.

They want their three kids to have the same type of escape. When they brought the whole family to the farm for the first time on an off-day last month, the children were entranced.

"They love going to see the animals, the calves, the little babies," Martinez said. "Later on, when [I retire] we will have some horses."

Martinez, however, will not be saddling up for any leisurely strolls. "I can't get on a horse until I retire. I'm not allowed," he quickly adds, stopping to explain.

There's nothing in Martinez's contract that strictly prohibits him from doing so, he says, but he won't allow it. It makes sense, given his injury-hampered 2015 season in which he battled through a limiting knee injury.

"Just me," he said of the mandate. "I want to finish my career."

Although last season's disappointments, including a career-low .245 batting average, prompted some to wonder whether retirement would come sooner rather than later, Martinez has experienced a renaissance of sorts in 2016. With a full offseason to rest and recover from the knee injury that hindered him so significantly in 2015, he is now healthy, which has translated into his production at the plate.

But that doesn't mean Martinez hasn't contemplated retirement, nor does it mean he can't still use a sanctuary from the daily grind of a 162-game season. That's why he tries to visit the farm when he can, like he planned to do on his off-day Thursday prior to the Tigers' series against the New York Yankees.

"Nobody's gonna bother you. You don't hear anything, just the animals," Martinez said, closing his eyes and again emulating a cow "moo-ing." "You hear them once in a while. You just sit down, relax and you hear nothing. That's why they call it peace."

His passion project has rubbed off on others, too, especially teammate Jose Iglesias. The 26-year-old shortstop bought his own 25 acres in Clewiston, Florida, about a 90-minute drive from Miami, where he spends his offseasons.

Iglesias has three donkeys and horses, including a miniature horse for his 5-year-old son to ride. There are plans to buy cows and chickens in the future.

"It's fun for kids to do something natural, away from the cities, the hotels," Iglesias told ESPN.com.

He'll ask Martinez questions, and the two will trade information about their respective farms, comparing notes and swapping stories. It has been a collaborative effort. Both of them are still relative novices to the lifestyle.

"We're not experts," Iglesias said. "But, we're learning it over time. It will be worth it."

"Nobody's gonna bother you. You don't hear anything, just the animals. You hear them once in a while. You just sit down, relax and you hear nothing. That's why they call it peace."

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez on farm life

Martinez will spend more time at his property this offseason, learning from two of his hired ranch hands -- brothers from Venezuela, one of whom is a veterinarian and the other an agricultural engineer. They'll eventually live on the property with him and teach him all he needs to know about the demands of managing a farm.

Martinez isn't sure how much time he'll spend there once he retires. His kids take priority, so living off the grid may not be realistic, at least at first. His two daughters are involved in dancing. His son is an avid baseball player.

"I gotta go be a dad, but ... I'm trying to spend as much time there as I can," Martinez said. "They like it, so as much time as they have, we go to the ranch, and I get to work out there and have fun at the same time."

It may not be the prototypical professional athlete retirement plan, but it sounds divine to Martinez.

"Baseball doesn't last forever," Martinez said. "You have to find something, ya know?"