Tom Usher: Martz — From Gomer to Cooperstown

May 16, 2013

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Turn a corner on the second floor of baseball’s Hall of Fame and there it is.

The Diamond Mines scouting exhibit opened the first week of May and now has five panels/cases on display. The idea, pioneered by the driving force of former general manager Roland Hemond, was to honor the scouting profession.

On the left flank of the exhibit is an interactive computer screen with rotating scouting reports. One can stop and look at each one, make each one bigger and tap the screen for more information on the player or the scout who wrote the report.

One of the rotating reports currently on display is on Bowling Green product and former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, written by Lima’s Jim Martz, a Major League Baseball scout for 31 years.

Push the button that says, “Learn more about this scout,” and Martz’s face and bio fly up on the screen.

When I visited last week, there were 12 reports being rotated on the screen, but those will change over time. In all, Martz has 200 of his reports on file, most of which can be seen on the Hall of Fame website, which is promoted just above the screen.

Martz, a Gomer High School grad, recently spent a few days at Cooperstown for the ribbon cutting of the exhibit.

“I’m euphoric,” he said. “It was above and beyond any expectations I could imagine. And especially 10 years after I retired, I was more involved with it than I could ever believe. … It’s mind-boggling and overwhelming, not only for me, but for the entire scouting profession to finally be recognized.”

While at Cooperstown, Martz participated in a sit-down DVD interview on scouting. He also participated in a question-and-answer interview at the Hall of Fame Bullpen Theatre, which was open to the public.

“The biggest thrill I got out if it was opening night, prior to the ribbon cutting, was when we were sitting there in front of about 100 of the high baseball executives and scouting directors. And Roland Hemond said he wanted everyone there to read Jim Martz’s report on Kirk Gibson,” Martz said.

Hemond, who now works for the Diamondbacks, said he was going to take copies of that report back to give to all his players and people in Arizona and to give one to Gibson and have him sign it and send it back to Martz.

As for Martz’s report on Hershiser, which is currently on the computer display, the Hall of Fame circled in red ink the part where Martz wrote, “lacks mental toughness and determination.”

Martz said, “Orel said in an ESPN interview that the report was on the money and that he was probably pouting that day. Tommy Lasorda nicknamed him the ‘Bulldog,’ but when I knew him he was more like a poodle. He came from an affluent background and said he could go work for his old man and make $100,000 a year and that he didn’t want to take many bus trips.”

The Dodgers ended up taking BG product Hershisher in the 17th round and he went on to win 204 games over an 18-year career with a 3.48 ERA. He won the 1988 Cy Young Award with the Dodgers when he went 23-8 with a 2.26 and had eight shutouts.

Martz worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau at the time and his report went to every team.

“I never gave up on him,” Martz said. “There’s no substitute for tools and ability and he had a nice long, loose fluid arm with good mechanics.”

Another of his reports on file is the one on Gibson, who was at Michigan State at the time and appeared headed to the NFL as a wide receiver. That was before Martz turned in a glowing scouting report on Gibson, writing about his off-the-charts speed and power. He graded him higher than any prospect he had ever seen.

The Tigers ended up taking Gibson with their first-round pick.

Looking back, it’s been quite a journey for Martz, from Gomer to the Hall of Fame.

“To see the exhibit and know it’s there for posterity, and for my family and friends to see it, it’s a very surreal experience,” Martz said. “For me (to get there), it was two million miles of driving and 31 years. I can’t believe it’s really happened.”