CLEVELAND, Ohio – Leonys Martin remembers only the pain.
He played his last game with the Indians on Aug. 7, pinch-hitting for Brandon Guyer in the eighth inning and hitting a sacrifice fly in a 3-2 loss to the Twins. He did not play Aug. 8 because of what the Indians felt was stomach flu. The pain worsened in the early hours of Aug. 9 and Martin was taken to Cleveland Clinic with what proved to be a life-threatening bacterial infection that created toxins that attacked his internal organs, including his heart.
“I still have no idea (what caused it),” said Martin a week ago as Indians players gathered for Tribe Fest at the Cleveland Convention Center. “The only thing I remember is I felt pain. I don’t remember where. I don’t remember anything else.”
That includes how he got to the Clinic or who took him.
“No idea,” said Martin. “I just blacked out. I’m a lucky man. Thank God this happened in Cleveland (because of the treatment he received at Cleveland Clinic). I’m truly happy that it happened in Cleveland.”
Martin didn’t really understand what had happened until a day or two after he was removed from the Clinic’s Intensive Care Unit and found his whole family waiting for him. In a lot of ways, he’s still trying to get his head wrapped around it.
“A lot of bad things came into my mind,” said Martin. “At the moment, thank God, I’m in good shape right now. I’m 100 percent and am able to play baseball again.”
The Indians were guarded in discussing Martin’s condition, but when manager Terry Francona asked fans to pray for Martin on Aug. 13 when the team was in Cincinnati, the gravity of the situation took hold. On Aug. 13 Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations, met with reporters and said Martin had finally taken a turn for the better.
He was released from the Clinic on Aug. 18, but did not play for the rest of the season under doctor’s orders. Martin, 30, needed time to regain his strength and his internal organs needed time to heal.
The Indians acquired Martin from the Tigers on July 31. He played just six games, but after he fell ill several players wrote his number and his initials on their caps during games.
“That was really emotional for me,” said Martin. “I watched the games and saw the support from my teammates. The fans, friends, my teammates, the front office guys here in Cleveland … there was a lot of support. I’m really thankful for that and I’ll never forget it.”
The biggest thing Martin took from his illness was the most obvious.
“Man, I’m still alive,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. To be able to see my family and my kids and play baseball again. Nothing compares to that.”
On Nov. 20 Martin received a clean bill of health from Cleveland Clinic doctors to prepare for spring training. The Indians open camp on Feb. 12 in Goodyear, Ariz.
“It’s been a long recovery,” said Martin. “The doctors, they were doing everything in baby steps, slow. We had plenty of time to show up at spring training ready, so we did everything right, took it slow. Yeah, I feel 100 percent.”
The Indians traded for Martin to play center field. At this stage of his career, it’s hard to say if he’s still a starting outfielder. He hasn’t had 500 at-bats in a season since 2016 with Seattle. But in the Tribe’s barren outfield, the at-bats are going to be there if he proves he can handle them.
“I’m going to motivate myself,” said Martin. “I got a second chance, so I’m going to enjoy every single time I wear a Cleveland Indians uniform. I’m going to be out there doing my best and trying to do the job the best that I can do.”