By Dennis Martinez (La Prensa)
HAVANA TIMES – I remember five years ago when I received the news that the new stadium being built thanks to a donation from Taiwan would bear my name: Dennis Martinez. It was an astonishing sensation, a huge recognition that the “jewel in the crown” of the new construction for the Central American Games was named after a young man from Granada. I said, “Thank you, God!” Days before the official inauguration my legs trembled because of the great meaning, but what would happen in the [more public] second inauguration was more genuine because it was non-partisan, but rather, with people who love the sport, overwhelmed me.
At the time I declared that the emotion was even better than my Perfect Game because the euphoria, the applause and seeing the people standing in my country was without comparison for me. The best thing was the reaction of the Nicaraguans. There was unanimity among all. Despite the different political ideologies, sports managed to unite a society that was fragmenting due to mismanagement in the circles of power.
Back then, in 2017, I even wrote a letter to Daniel Ortega thanking him for the honor. My goal was to offer support, utilizing my connections in the field of sports, the next step being to bring a game between two Major League baseball teams to Nicaragua. Talks were underway with MLB and then, tired of so many abuses, the country erupted.
The citizens cried out for a new path because they saw no way out of the situation in which they found themselves. In 2018 I understood that sports had taken a back seat. I never worried about the consequences of my position in favor of the Nicaraguan people because my way of thinking, my values, and my dignity have never been for sale.
When the harsh news and journalistic investigations began to circulate that the National Stadium had become quarters for government thugs, it really upset me and, after the investigations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights where they confirmed the use of snipers from the stadium, I was even more incensed.
The stadium had represented unity, fun, forgetting our misfortunes because we are a baseball country, and that amid difficult times baseball united us again. However, now, bullets of death were coming from this stadium bearing my name. The mothers of the dead looked at the stadium with condemnation and it became synonymous with division: some calling me “traitor” and others defending me and calling for taking away my name so as not to continue defiling it.
Rulers can bestow names and remove them as they please, but what has mattered most to me is the example I leave in this life. I am a 68-year-old person who knew how to straighten out his life when alcohol wanted to destroy it. But God, The Virgin, and my wife rescued me. I am the father of a family, a man who made many mistakes and had many successes. I was also a son who gave many headaches and much joy to my parents, Edmundo and Emilia, and I am a husband who enjoys life’s journey with Luz Marina. I know what I was and I understand what I am, but I don’t know what else I will be in the future. What I am clear about is what I do not want to be, which is a person who turned his back on his fellow citizens when they needed him most.
At the Pope’s Holy Mass in Bahrain he spoke about loving without revenge or violence, demilitarizing the heart, adding that: “Reacting in a simply human way chains us to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” I simply thank God for all his kindnesses in my life and just as I said “Thank God” when that beautiful stadium bore my name, I say “Thank God” again for having removed it.