Tahlequah Daily Press

July 10, 2013

Overlooked Martinez ready to play for USA

By CORBIN HOSLER
CNHI

— OKLAHOMA CITY — Destinee Martinez was never the biggest name on Oklahoma’s historic national title team last season. Keilani Ricketts and Lauren Chamberlain drew most of the headlines. But as a junior outfielder, she was a vital part of the Sooners’ squad, consistently making spectacular plays in center field while being a constant presence at the plate.

Now, that quiet hard work has paid off for Martinez with a berth on Team USA, which will kick off its summer schedule beginning with a 7 p.m. showdown on Thursday against Canada in the World Cup of Softball at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Again, she won’t be the biggest name on the field, with Player of the Year finalists Chamberlain and Raven Chavanne on the team. But that’s not a problem for Martinez.

“I understand my role,” said Martinez, a slap hitter who batted .347 last season for OU last season. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with this team, but when games start I’ll understand what I need to do. Like at OU, I’ll try to get on base for when the big hitters come up.”

While Martinez is low-key about her contributions, Ken Eriksen, her coach on Team USA and the head coach at South Florida, isn’t.

“Destinee is a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal person,” he said. “She’s got an open mind to learning, and that’s important.”

Another person familiar with Martinez said the same. Chamberlain, who has spent the month since the end of the 2013 season living in Norman and working out with Martinez, said it’s “unreal” to get to play on the national team alongside her Sooner teammate.

“It’s cool to go through this experience, especially with Destinee,” Chamberlain said. “We played together on the junior team, and it’s exciting to be here together too.”

Exciting it may be, but easy it’s not. Martinez and Chamberlain had just days after the Sooners won the national title a month ago to prepare for the Team USA tryout. They didn’t leave Norman, and Martinez hasn’t been back to her hometown of Corona, Calif., since Christmas.

But that sacrifice wasn’t without benefits. The pair got to pick out their championship rings in Norman and work out together. Most importantly, two days after tryouts ended, Martinez found out she had made the team.

“Lauren and I had just finished our workout and were sitting in the cold tub waiting for the email,” she said. “We were refreshing our phones constantly waiting for the list to come out. When we found out we had made it, we had a little celebration. It’s a dream come true to play together on this team.”

Martinez is in for a busy summer. After this weekend’s World Cup, the team will leave next week for a tournament in Canada before taking a week off that will allow Martinez to finally make it back home before rejoining the team for a trip to Puerto Rico.

“It’s nothing but more softball,” she said. “But that’s what we’re here for.”