Fans Can Thank Tino Martinez For Getting Robin Ventura To The Mets

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By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

Robin Ventura only played three seasons with the New York Mets, but he quickly became one of the club’s most popular players. The two-time All Star joined WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts Friday afternoon to reminisce about his time in Queens.

At the start of the interview, Roberts complimented Ventura for being one of the best free agent signings in Mets’ history and asked the former third baseman why he chose to come to New York in 1999.

At first, Ventura was concerned Edgardo Alfonzo wouldn’t want to move from third base to second, but Bobby Valentine and general manager Steve Phillips assured him, Fonzy was willing to make the switch. Surprisingly, Ventura also said Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez helped influence him to sign with the Mets.

“I ran into Tino at some point,” Ventura told Benigno and Roberts. “And he was the one that said, ‘they got a really good thing going on over there and I think that would be a good spot for you.’ So it kind of stuck in my head a little bit, they were really the leaders of where I wanted to go and who I wanted to play with.”

Benigno brought up one of Ventura’s most memorable moments, which came following a rain delay with the Mets at Yankee Stadium for a regular season Subway Series game. After the delay caused the game to be canceled, Ventura came out of the clubhouse dressed as Mike Piazza and ran around the rain-soaked field, imitating the All-Star catcher.“Every time I would walk by Mike’s locker, I would grab something and put it on. I started walking like him, guys were laughing and John Franco said, ‘if we get rained out, you gotta go do this thing on the tarp’…next think you know they come in and call the game and everybody gets excited,” Ventura said. “I was a little nervous about doing it, but they enjoyed it.”Another one of Ventura’s most well-known moments with the Mets was his famous ‘Grand Slam Single.’ He stepped to the plate in the 15th inning, with bases loaded during Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS against the Braves. Ventura sent the ball over the fence, but needing only one-run to win, he was swarmed by his teammates before reaching second base.

Remember when Robin Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam single? pic.twitter.com/vTvGNPB0k7

— Remember When MLB? (@RememberWhenMLB) March 15, 2019 Ventura told Benigno and Roberts his knee was banged up at the time, so he just wanted to make sure he hit the ball in the air to avoid a double play. “When I went around first, (Mets backup catcher Todd Pratt) touched second and turned around. And it actually turns out to be a better moment the way it happened than if I would have circled the bases.”

Before joining the Mets, Ventura played with the Chicago White Sox and spent two seasons as a teammate of Albert Belle, who Benigno and Roberts regularly claim deserves to be in Cooperstown. Despite his Hall of Fame numbers, Belle quickly fell off the ballot without much support from baseball writers. Roberts asked Ventura what type of teammate Belle was.

“Albert was just intense when he got to the park, he’s really one of the smarter hitters I ever played with,” Ventura said. “Albert used to write down on 3x5 cards, every pitch he saw, who the pitcher was, who the catcher was, the situation. Really smart and diligent about keeping track of pitchers he saw and the pitches he got.”

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview with Robin Ventura