Buck Martinez, longtime Blue Jays broadcaster and former player and manager, is stepping away from the booth after Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics to start treatment following a cancer diagnosis.
Martinez, 73, made the announcement on social media Sunday morning.
“Today will be my last game in the booth for a little while as I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and will begin the process for treatment in the coming weeks,” Martinez wrote. “I’ve been so honoured and privileged to have the support of Blue Jays fans, colleagues, staff and players since I arrived here in 1981, and that continued support through this next challenge means the world to me.”
Martinez said he is grateful for a “tremendous” medical team that “has given me great optimism that I will come through this with flying colours.” He said he hopes to return to work for the Jays’ stretch run this season. “In the meantime I will be watching from the sidelines as I fight the good fight.”
Martinez played 17 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher, debuting with the Kansas City Royals in 1969. He spent eight seasons with the Royals before three with the Milwaukee Brewers, then landed in Toronto ahead of the 1981 season. He finished his career as a Jay after the 1986 season, starting a new career as a colour commentator the next year, which led to roles with TSN and ESPN.
After years of analyzing the team’s performance on television, Martinez was hired as the Jays’ manager in November 2000. They went 100-115 before he was fired in June 2002, replaced by Carlos Tosca.
The native of Redding, Calif. spent the next seven seasons calling Baltimore Orioles games, before returning to Toronto and joining Sportsnet in 2010. He has been working Jays games regularly for 12 years, alongside former Jay Pat Tabler and more recently Dan Shulman.
“Please keep Buck in your prayers … He’s as tough as they come, and we can’t wait to have him back with us as soon as possible,” Shulman tweeted Sunday.
In a statement, Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro called Martinez “a dear member of our Blue Jays family and a fixture in the Canadian baseball community. As he steps way from the broadcast booth to receive treatment, we have no doubt Buck will face the road ahead with courage, determination, and his signature positivity.”
“Blue Jays Central” broadcasters Jamie Campbell and Joe Siddall fought tears and struggled to speak as they paid tribute to Martinez before Sunday’s game against Oakland.
Campbell announced on social media last month that he is battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and blood that has no known cure. Siddall’s son Kevin died after a six-month battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at 14 years old in 2014.
“Buck is like family to all of us here, as he actually may be to you based on how many times you hear his voice, so this hits very hard … He’s almost like my baseball father,” Campbell said.
Siddall said his thoughts are with Martinez “while he receives effective treatment.”
Martinez was expected to address his diagnosis at the beginning of Sunday’s broadcast with Shulman.
“We can’t wait to get him back where we love him,” Siddall said, “at a ballpark.”
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