Moments before the Seattle Mariners won the 1997 American League West Championship last month, their designated hitter Edgar Martinez sat in the dugout thinking about his family. Not awards and honors, trades and deals, not even about the World Series, but family.
"The noise of the crowd just kind of faded and everything slowed down," he recalls. "I had a little time to relax and to think about what all this means. And I thought about my grandparents who raised me. I thought of Holli and our baby."
What sort of person takes a baseball player's mind off the game at the pinnacle of the season? Holli Beeler Martinez, a 1991 alumna of Seattle Pacific University, is the focus of Edgar's thoughts because she has managed to build a life for herself and her family amidst the tumult of celebrity.
It hasn't been easy to create sanctuary in the world of professional sports, but Holli has been doing that ever since she met Edgar Martinez seven years ago while studying music at SPU. Back then, her plan was further study at a music conservatory. "But when I met Edgar, my life changed completely."
A mutual friend brought them together for a blind date, an event Holli initially resisted. "I'd heard the stories about baseball players," she says knowingly. But Edgar persisted until she relented. For their first date, he picked her up at her parents' home wearing old, torn blue jeans and a T-shirt. "It was a test. I wanted to make sure she liked me for me," he explains, but when he saw her for the first time he was shocked. "She looked so young!"
Holli sat on the other side of his car, suspicious and defensive. "I grilled him," she admits. "I asked him about his family. If a man is close to his family, that's a good sign."
As it turned out, they passed each other's tests: He was very close to his family and she failed to notice his old clothes. They agreed to meet again the next day. "Then I finally looked at him," says Holli, "and I thought, wow, he's handsome."
"I didn't want to get married," Edgar recalls about their early days together. "I thought we'd go somewhere, come back, that's it. But our conversations were good and she was the right person."
Holli adjusted to his celebrity, a situation perhaps made easier since she was a practiced performer too. One night, she sang the national anthem in front of a home-game crowd. "I hid behind the Mariner Moose so he wouldn't see me," she says. "Edgar was very surprised." And proud.
They saw each other for more than a year before marrying and from the start the contrasts were obvious between a young woman from Bellevue and a grown man from Puerto Rico. "It was a miracle we got together," she says. "God took two very different people from very different cultures and made something new."
In 1992, they tied the knot and the first year of marriage was hard on both of them. Edgar suffered injuries and couldn't play for part of the season. Although he won the batting title that year, he felt frustrated on the sidelines. "I go to bed thinking of baseball, and wake up thinking about it," he says.
Meanwhile, Holli had to adapt to a new way of living. "Being married to a baseball player is like being in the military," she says. "I'm a single married person because the team is on the road so much of the year. I had to learn to cope the hard way."
She soon determined that baseball, while important, would not overpower her. "I keep my family as normal as possible," she explains. "I stay close to my parents, and I have the same friends I've always had."
One of those friends she met at Seattle Pacific in the music program. Lisa Sharpe Jackson '91 was in the SPU Singers and greatly admired Holli's musical ability. "Holli is an incredibly talented vocalist," Jackson says. "She has it all - talent, theory, stage presence, drama, poise."
After graduation, Jackson moved to Arizona, playing host to Holli and Edgar when they traveled to the Southwest for spring training. "I hadn't seen Holli since her marriage, and I wasn't sure how to act, how to treat her now that she was married to someone famous."
Although Holli suggested they all go to Taco Bell for dinner, Jackson and her husband took the couple to a "nice" restaurant instead. "But then I found out they really did want to go to Taco Bell," laughs Jackson. "I realized, she's still Holli."
Jackson had already discovered Holli's loyalty. In 1991, when Jackson was diagnosed with cancer, her friend stuck by her. "Holli was always there for me," remembers Jackson. "She'd call, send flowers." Now in remission, Jackson is grateful to her college chum. "Life isn't always great, and Holli deals with it. She was there when I needed her. She prayed for me."
Faith remains a big part of Holli's life. She attends church and Bible studies regularly. Hard work keeps her centered as well. With her mother and father, Holli built up a thriving business called Caribbean Embroidery which now employs more than 20 people and caters to large companies such as Boeing, Microsoft and Nintendo.
Lately though, she's turned her energies towards home. "I want to follow a biblical model," she says. "My job is helping my husband and raising our son." Part of that includes "homeschooling" three-year-old Alex, a vocation she finds deeply satisfying. "I love it and the relationship it builds between us."
She carves out time for herself when she can, taking horseback riding lessons, canning her own fruit, working out at the gym. And always, her focus is keeping the family grounded in reality. "I don't want Alex caught up in materialism but to have a healthy sense of money and stewardship," she says. From time to time, she'll also offer a balancing opinion about her husband's profession. "I know how things are. Baseball is temporary; it's entertainment. You can't be overwhelmed by it."
So, even though there are championships and TV ads, T-shirts and trading cards, baseball surrounds them without consuming them. For Holli Martinez, the enduring values are found in parenting, not pennants.
"In the morning, Alex comes running into our room and jumps into the bed. We all just lie there and snuggle together," she says. "And you know, that's our favorite time of the entire day."