CLEVELAND — Outfielder Leonys Martin was very much looking forward to taking part in the 2018 Major League Baseball Playoffs after being traded to the Cleveland Indians from the Detroit Tigers last July, but fate had other plans.
The 30-year old Martin suffered a life-threatening bacterial infection shortly after his arrival in Cleveland, but after weeks of treatment and months of rehabilitation, he is back healthy and ready to get to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona next month.
“It’s been a long process, but thank God, I’m still alive and being back doing what I love to do,” Martin told WKYC.com at TribeFest Saturday.
“Man, it was really rough. For me, there were a lot of emotions. When I got traded, I got a lot of expectations to be in the playoffs and then, my life turned around so quick, but it’s over. It’s finally over. The hard part was getting back to the field, but I’m excited, looking forward.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Martin played in just six games with the Indians before falling ill and needing a lengthy stay in the hospital to recover from the infection, which was so aggressive that manager Terry Francona took time in a press conference to ask for prayers for the ailing outfielder.
Martin’s bacterial infection got into his bloodstream and created toxins that damaged internal organs and compromised their functions. However, Martin recovered enough to be released from Cleveland Clinic on Sunday, August 19, 11 days after becoming ill.
A native of Villa Clara, Cuba, Martin collected five hits in 15 at-bats (.333 batting average) with two home runs, four runs batted in, three runs scored and one walk against two strikeouts for the Indians. He had .353 on-base, .733 slugging and 1.086 on-base-plus-slugging percentages with the Indians.
“I feel in shape right now,” Martin said.
“My body’s back to normal, but it’s taken a little while. You’ve got to be patient because everything is like baby steps. It’s a little frustrating because I want to do everything quick, but it doesn’t work that way. Thank God, I feel 100 percent. I feel normal now, ready to compete, ready to play baseball.”
Throughout Martin’s battle, teammates and coaches alike did what they could to let him know he was on their minds.
When the Indians clinched their third consecutive American League Central Division Championship with a 15-0 win over the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 15, several players sent a Twitter video to Martin sending well wishes and letting him know he remained a part of the team.
“That was amazing,” Martin said. “They sent me the video when they were celebrating for the playoffs. It helped me a lot because I was really frustrated missing the playoffs, something that I was really excited about. I’m thankful. I’m thankful to be around people like the Cleveland fans and my teammates.”
Following his discharge from Cleveland Clinic, Martin wanted to give the staffers a small token of his appreciation for their efforts to save his life. Martin gave the Clinic one of his jerseys, and it is proudly displayed in their facility.
“Whatever I do is not enough to thank them for everything,” Martin said. “They saved my life. The way they treated me at the Cleveland Clinic, it was amazing. I think I’m still alive because of them, all of the effort they put in to get me out of there.
“They pushed me like, ‘You’re going to get out of here. You’re going to get out of here. Stay strong. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be playing baseball again.’ Things like that, I will never forget. Whatever I do is not enough to be thankful.”
Now that Martin has a clean bill of health, he is focused on doing what is necessary to get the Indians to the postseason once again.
“I want to help this team win games and be back in the playoffs,” Martin said.
“It feels like it’s been two or three years since I played baseball. It’s going to be emotional.”