Richie Martin’s maternal grandfather, Cornelius Thomas, played in the Negro Leagues.
Chet Lemon, Martin’s coach since he was 11, played in the big leagues for 16 seasons, split between the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
- Timothy Gallwey, the San Francisco-born author of “The Inner Game of Tennis,’’ never played much baseball at all.
But the three of them, together with Richard Martin Sr., have been instrumental in the development of University of Florida product Martin, the A’s first-round pick in the June draft.
Oakland made one other pick on the first day of the three-day draft, picking another shortstop, Mikey White from the University of Alabama with the 63 pick.
Thomas died before Martin was able to meet him, but the genetics are clearly there. Lemon was an All-Star center fielder with the White Sox twice and the Tigers once who has been a major impact on Martin’s Thomas. And Gallwey’s book which deals more with the mental approach to tennis, and Martin has found it valuable.
“It sounds crazy,’’ Martin said of the Gallwey book. “It’s not too much about tennis. It’s about the mental part. It’s overlooked.’’
The A’s are hoping Martin won’t be overlooked. The 6-foot, 185-pound shortstop hit .292 this year with five homers and 33 RBIs in 65 games with Florida and, with the help of being hit by pitches 16 times, he owns an on-base percentage of .404. A right-handed hitter, he leads the Gators in runs scored, walked, steals and hit by pitches.
A’s director of scouting Eric Kubota described Martin as “a baseball rat.’’
“He can maximize his ability, he’s a team leader, he plays the position well,’’ Kubota said. “First and foremost, he has the tools and the athleticism. He and really runs and really throw, and his defense ability has a chance to be special.’’
Martin is just 20, so Kubota said he’s the equivalent of the age of most college sophomores, so the A’s believe he has the chance to grow some.
“He’s an outstanding athleticism and that translates into big range,’’ Kubota said. ` He has the ability to make the routine play, and the arm strength to make all the throws.’’
Unlike some of the six shortstops taken in the first 20 picks of the draft, Martin is projected by scouts to remain at shortstop. He has above-average credentials in both range and arm strength.
And he has that baseball pedigree that most players don’t have.
“Coach Chet came around when I was 11 years,’’ Martin said. “We have a very nice relationship. I’ve played for his travel team (Chet Lemon’s Juice). Other than my dad, he’s had the biggest impact on me in baseball.
“We have a pretty close relationship. I got to speak with him today. He told me to take it all in, then when the time comes, get to work and play some baseball.’’
Martin, who was drafted out of high school by the Mariners, broke into the upper reaches of draft prospects with a slash line of .364/.432/.469 with Bourne, where he was the league’s second-leading hitter.
The A’s other SEC addition, White, hit .339 with 19 doubles, six triples, four homers and 35 RBIs with Alabama. He had 31 walks and was hit by pitches 16 times for an on-base percentage of .444 that the A’s found attractive.
Scouts see White, a 6-foot-1, 195 pound right-hander, as a possibility to be moved to second base or third base even though he started all 184 games with a .308 career average.
The A’s aren’t willing to go that way, not yet.
“We think he has ability to play shortstop,’’ Kubota said. “We have guys who are very positive about that. That stuff will shake itself out as time goes on.’’