BOISE — Joey Martarano adjusted his batting gloves, stepped up to the plate, dug his cleats into the dirt and satisfied a cheering crowd by launching a towering home run on his first swing of the home run derby at Saturday night’s Bronco Classic charity softball game in front of 1,500 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Hitting a home run in a minor league stadium was a scene that could have played out several times this summer had the 2013 Fruitland High graduate decided to play professional baseball instead of honoring a commitment to play linebacker for Boise State.
Martarano likely would have been drafted in the top five rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft in June had he not informed teams that he planned to enroll at Boise State. Still, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted the 6-foot-4, 228-pound slugger in the 13th round and attempted to work out a deal to let him still play football at Boise State this fall.
The Phillies offered Martarano a $100,000 signing bonus — half of which would have been paid up front — but wanted him to play baseball this summer before enrolling at Boise State in the fall. Martarano ultimately turned the deal down because he didn’t want to miss summer classes and workouts.
The final deadline for drafted players to sign with their MLB teams was Friday and fittingly he was back on a baseball field a day later swinging for the fences to help a good cause.
Martarano hit his first three swings over the shortened softball fence in the outfield to start his round and his final swing — his seventh home run of the round — went over the actual baseball fence in deep left-center field.
“There was quite a bit of pressure because everyone was hyping me up and I was a little nervous because I’ve never played softball before,” Martarano said. “But it was fun to go out there and do it.”
The power-hitting third baseman, who has a chance to compete for immediate playing time at linebacker this fall, hit a second home run completely out of the stadium in the finals en route to the home run derby championship. His victory ended a two-year run from quarterback Joe Southwick.
Martarano also homered twice in two at-bats in the defense’s 13-10 victory over the offense in the game that followed the derby. But he said stepping back into the box and knocking several out of the park didn’t give him any second thoughts.
“My dream growing up has always been to play football for Boise State,” Martarano said. “I’m happy with my decision.”
Martarano said he might enter the MLB Draft again next year and see if a team will sign him but allow him to continue to play football at Boise State. When his football career ends, he could then fulfill his commitment to play for that team if he chooses.
DEFENSE WINS: Junior defensive end Beau Martin’s three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the defense a win over the offense in the sixth annual Bronco Classic, which benefits the First Tee of Idaho.
“It felt really good, I’m not going to lie,” Martin said. “I made a mistake in the outfield, so all I was thinking about was redemption. It felt good.”