Dodgers’ draftee on defensive

Times Staff Writer

On the day Ethan Martin said his dream came true, he couldn’t separate himself from the incident that turned his final high school game into a nightmare.

Martin, 18, a right-handed pitcher from Georgia, was selected by the Dodgers with the 15th pick of baseball’s first-year player draft Thursday.

After, he fielded questions on a conference call about how he became a full-time pitcher only two years ago and the unlikelihood of him honoring his scholarship to Clemson.


But then the discussion turned toward the controversy in the Georgia Class AAA championship game that Martin’s Stephens County High lost to Cartersville, 13-1.

In the fourth inning of that game, Martin’s brother, Cody, threw a fastball that struck the home plate umpire in his mask when the catcher ducked out of the way. Ethan Martin had argued a strike-three call in the top half of that inning.

The pitch that hit the umpire was captured on video and posted on YouTube and ultimately resulted in the Georgia High School Assn. fining Stephens County High $1,000 and placing the baseball program on “severe warning.”

“We came a long way to get second place and they came a long way to win a championship,” Ethan Martin said. “I don’t think it’s fair to them or to us.”

Martin and Stephens County Coach Mark Gosnell denied Thursday that the umpire was hit intentionally. Gosnell said that the ball wasn’t caught because of a mix-up in the signs.

Stephens County Principal David Friend told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the punishment was fair. Gosnell declined to comment. Friend and GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin could not be reached.


“It’s taken away from our accomplishment because the media’s talking about this one incident,” Martin said.

The incident cost the catcher, Matt Hill, an offer to walk on at Gordon College. Martin said Hill has enrolled at another school, Middle Georgia, and will play baseball. Martin said his brother, a junior, hasn’t been affected by the uproar.

Assistant General Manager Logan White of the Dodgers said he has met the Martins and their parents, and that Ethan’s character was not a concern.

Martin said he was looking forward to getting on with his life, guessing that he wouldn’t have much trouble agreeing with the Dodgers on the terms of a contract. Martin is represented by the same Georgia agency as Dodgers setup man Jonathan Broxton.

By selecting Martin, the Dodgers selected a high school pitcher with their top selection for the fifth consecutive year. Previous top picks include Chad Billingsley (2003) and Clayton Kershaw (2006).

Also a highly rated third baseman, Martin pitched only as a closer until two years ago. He said he became a starting pitcher because his high school team was short on arms. Though Martin has a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that White holds in high esteem, Martin admits that because of his lack of experience pitching, he can’t always command them.


“It’s something I have to work hard at,” he said.

White said is he aware that not everyone shares his opinion that Martin is better as a pitcher than as a third baseman. White was questioned similarly when he selected James Loney as a pitcher rather than as a first baseman in 2002.

“We’re doing the Loney in reverse,” said White, who guessed that Martin would pitch 35-40 innings this summer at rookie-level Gulf Coast if he is signed in time.

Among the Dodgers’ other picks Thursday was fourth-rounder Devaris Strange-Gordon, the son of Phillies reliever Tom Gordon.