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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Down the block here in Washington, D.C., this morning, they unveiled a painting at the National Portrait Gallery. Martin Sullivan, the director of the gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian, introduced the subject of that portrait.

Mr. MARTIN SULLIVAN (Director, National Portrait Gallery): And here he is, Pedro Martinez.

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: Pedro Martinez, the greatest right-handed pitcher of his day, 18 Major League seasons, 219 wins, a career earned run average of 2.93. He struck out 3,154 batters and won the Cy Young Award three times. He was a hero of the world champion Boston Red Sox of 2004 and always a proud son of the Dominican Republic.

Mr. PEDRO MARTINEZ: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And there he is on canvas as painted by Susan Miller-Havens -standing on the mound, rubbing the ball, his glove tucked under his arm, and he's giving an imaginary batter the stare. And here he is in our studio.

Welcome to the program, Pedro Martinez.

Mr. MARTINEZ: I'm very happy to be here.

SIEGEL: And congratulations on your portrait being in the National Portrait Gallery.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Thank you so much. It's a great sense of pride for me.

SIEGEL: OK. Tell me about the stare. Tell me about what the portrait artist captured there of you.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Well, you know, Susan has her own way. As an artist, I think she was talking about my hands, and what she said to me was that she focused on my hands.

SIEGEL: Hmm.

Mr. MARTINEZ: She was always analyzing my long fingers and how I kind of used them to do art with my fingers.

SIEGEL: But there was something you did with your eyes when you were playing baseball - the way you could look at a player, the way you could look at a batter - and you did that on purpose.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARTINEZ: Yes. Yes, I did it, and I'm not going to say no because baseball has a little bit of everything.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Baseball has a little bit of psychology. Baseball has intensity. And I think the best way to reflect what you are about to do and doing is through your looks.

SIEGEL: But part of the look is to intimidate, to say I've got you figured out.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Oh, believe me...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

Mr. MARTINEZ: ...you have to be out there like you belong and like you're in your territory. We call it a jungle, where you kill to survive. That's how you see it. Your aggressiveness as a player and determination will make you look like you're in a jungle.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about something that I know is very important to you. You're from the Dominican Republic...

Mr. MARTINEZ: Yes, sir.

SIEGEL: ...which is the source of a great many Major League ballplayers and some great ones. Baseball is obviously a great opportunity for young kids in the Dominican. It's also - it verges sometimes on a system of child labor in your home country. How do you make baseball work for all kids there, including those who don't have Major League careers in store?

Mr. MARTINEZ: Well, I believe baseball offers a very good open door for a better life and a clean life. You are in a healthy environment. You are actually keeping your body healthy, and that allows you to do so many things. And then at the same time, if you get signed by a team, they pay you to do what you like.

SIEGEL: You can't beat that.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Can't beat, you know, the position of being a big league player.

SIEGEL: Your foundation is active in education of young kids in the Dominican Republic?

Mr. MARTINEZ: Yes, it is. We are working really hard. And if you don't see me playing baseball, and you haven't seen me in the last few years, that might be one of the biggest reasons. I want to really help out the community. I want to help the kids to develop into real good persons and then good athletes and whatever they want to be. It doesn't have to really be athletes.

But I want to open doors because when I was a kid I was chosen to represent Dominican Republic as a little leaguer, and I didn't have 420 pesos, which will be right now about 8 to $10. Because my mom did not have those 420 pesos, I did not represent the Dominican. I want to make sure that anybody I can reach with the same opportunity is going to make that trip.

SIEGEL: Just one other point, as you said, we haven't seen your pitch in the majors since 2009.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Mm-hmm.

SIEGEL: Next week is opening day. You miss it?

Mr. MARTINEZ: Miss some aspects of it, not all of them.

SIEGEL: Which ones don't you miss?

Mr. MARTINEZ: The travel.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MARTINEZ: The routine of every day, not being able to have time off for your family. I don't miss those. But the other aspects like my teammates, being on the field, competing...

SIEGEL: Forty thousand people screaming Pedro.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Exactly. That's home for me.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

Mr. MARTINEZ: That's like my bed. That's my comfort zone.

SIEGEL: Pedro Martinez, thank you for coming here. Congratulations on your portrait being unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery here in Washington.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Well, thank you so much. It was a great pleasure. And, you know, this is something that I would like to share with everybody, not only the people in the Dominican, not only with my family, but all the fans that through the years have been pulling so hard for Pedro and chanting, even though they might chant who's your daddy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARTINEZ: That's also dedicated to them because they were there for - to support baseball and support the players.

SIEGEL: OK. Pedro Martinez, Major League pitching great and founder of the Pedro Martinez and Brothers Foundation, thanks so much.

Mr. MARTINEZ: You're welcome.

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