In the Martinez family, baseball is in the blood.
When his three sons – Armando Jr., Renae, and Chazz – were younger, Armando Sr. would wake them early in the morning any time they had a day off from school and take them around the corner to the old Eastview Little League fields (where Target is now) to practice, even on holidays.
“I would hit them ground balls, have some batting practice, do infield and outfield stuff,” says the senior Martinez. “I’d get off work at 6 a.m., and we would be there by 6:30.”
By all accounts, the boys (mostly) loved it.
“I loved it growing up as a kid,” says Chazz, 22, the youngest of the three who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals last summer. “I wish I could go back to those days when we’d wake up, go to the park, or just hit some balls in the batting cage. He built us a batting cage and a pitcher’s mound in our backyard. It was pretty cool, just waking up, being able to go in the back, flip on a machine and hit, or just throw a bullpen session with my brothers. It was an awesome experience.”
San Pedro is known for producing some impressive baseball talent, but having three boys from one family succeed in the sport is unprecedented. Listening to the Martinez brothers talk about their father’s passion for helping them succeed, one quickly realizes that it’s also not surprising.
“It was a dream come true,” says Armando Sr., who raised all three sons as a single parent. “They were always on top, baseball, football, basketball. Any sport they tried, they perfected it. But I didn’t like them playing football because of injuries, so I led them a little more towards baseball.”
Playing Little League, especially at Eastview, is a rite of passage for many San Pedro kids growing up. For the Martinez brothers, it was no different. All of them excelled playing for Eastview, but high school was where baseball became a serious business.
Armando Jr., the eldest brother, set the pace. Playing for San Pedro High from 2008-2011 as a pitcher, where he made the All-Marine League team in 2009 and 2010, he capped off his high school pitching career in the 2010 L.A. City Section playoffs, playing alongside middle brother Renae as the school’s pitching and catching duo. They’re the first brother combination to play in the City playoffs for San Pedro High School.
“Growing up [playing] baseball, that’s all we knew,” says Jr.
“He had a rubber arm. He could throw over a hundred pitches in a ball game, without a doubt,” recalls Armando Sr., who also coached his sons in Little League and high school. “He wasn’t very fast, but he had a changeup, curveball, knuckleball, knuckle curve. People couldn’t hit them back then.”
After high school, Armando Jr., now 29, played baseball for Harbor College for three years before hanging up his glove to pursue a career in mechanics.
Being passed the baseball baton by his older brother, Renae took his playing career to the next level. Graduating San Pedro High in 2012, he earned All-City, All-Daily Breeze, and first-team All-Marine League honors two years in a row.
“We were a good duo,” remembers Renae, 28, about playing alongside his brother. “I definitely learned from a lot of his mistakes on the field. Same thing with Chazz. I’m sure he learned from mine.”
After graduating high school, Renae attended UC Irvine, where he played catcher for the Anteaters in the College World Series as a freshman in 2014. Even though the team lost in the second round to Texas, the experience would prepare him for more baseball success.
“That was pretty spectacular,” remembers Renae. “UC Irvine were the underdogs. I think we were the last team in. We had to go to Oregon State for regionals. They were the number one team in the nation, and we upset them and upset Oklahoma State to get to the College World Series. It was a great experience being on that Cinderella team.”
Seeing that his playing time was limited, Renae left UC Irvine after two years and attended Compton College, where he was recruited by then University of Oklahoma baseball head coach Pete Hughes.
“I transferred to Compton for one year,” recalls Renae. “[Hughes] just came out of nowhere one day. He was sitting at a picnic table watching me play, then came to a game and offered me a scholarship.”
Renae would finish his college baseball career in 2017 with the Sooners, where he was named team captain and was runner-up for the Johnny Bench award. Soon after, the big leagues came calling, and the middle Martinez brother was suddenly wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform.
“That was a big relief,” says Renae about being drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 33rd round. He would eventually play for nearly every minor league team in the Diamondbacks organization, finishing his baseball career in early 2022. But while he was still playing, there was a family emergency.
Two years ago, Armando Sr. fell ill and required a liver transplant. Renae was found to be the perfect match, so he donated 65 percent of his liver to his father, which ended up saving his life.
“Renae’s liver grew back within two and a half weeks. Mine grew back within three and a half months,” remembers Armando Sr. “I wouldn’t be here today [without him].”
Renae hung up his cleats last year and became a Los Angeles City fireman, graduating from the academy a few months ago.
With Armando Jr. and Renae out of baseball, all eyes are now on Chazz.
“From the beginning, we always knew Chazz was going to be something special,” says Armando Jr.
Growing up in a baseball household, including that backyard with a batting cage and pitching mound, it seemed inevitable that Chazz would follow in his brothers’ footsteps, hoping to go even further.
“Chazz was always on top of probably the whole family,” says Armando Sr. “He learned from Renae and Armando about baseball, and myself, so he had an edge on all these other kids.”
Unlike his brothers, Chazz went to Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach, where he pitched and played first base and outfield for four years.
“Our dad moved me out there for better [baseball] exposure,” explains Chazz. “We saw how good the talent was out there.”
Chazz graduated in 2018 and then spent two years playing at UC Santa Barbara, where the pandemic shortened their 2020 season. After a quick stint at Orange Coast College, he transferred to the University of Oklahoma and became a Sooner like his brother. The team made it to the College World Series last year, making Renae and Chazz the first brother combination out of San Pedro to play in the tournament.
“That was awesome,” says Chazz. “I saw my brother go there, so I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Everyone we played [in the series] was top of the top. You play the best teams in the nation. It took my game to the next level. That’s what I needed.”
Last summer, the next level came calling when the Kansas City Royals drafted Chazz in the 17th round of the 2022 MLB June Amateur Draft. (He got the call while getting a sandwich at Busy Bee.) He played a half dozen minor league games with the organization last year but will experience his first official Spring Training in Arizona this February.
“I’m very excited,” says Chazz.
On Prospects Live, a minor league news website, one scout wrote about the 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander, “Martinez, from the left side… has been up to 99 [mph] but sits in the mid-90s. Martinez mixes a curveball, slider, and a changeup to keep hitters off balance.”
As Chazz joins the Royals in February, hoping to get that call to the major leagues, Armando Sr. cannot help but feel pride for all his boys and their lives, both in and out of baseball.
“Oh, I’m a proud papa, 110 percent,” he says. “Doing things in San Pedro that no other family has done. I’m so proud of them.”
His sons feel the same way. Those years of waking up early to shag balls, the hours spent driving to and from practices and travel ball games, and giving his sons the support to succeed have all paid off.
“I don’t think we could’ve done this without my dad,” says Chazz. spt