Joe Martarano, a likely starter at middle linebacker for the Boise State football team this season, posted on Instagram that he is leaving the program to pursue a professional baseball career. A Boise State spokesman confirmed it Wednesday night.
The post reads: “Thank you bronco nation for the memories these past four years! I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’ll always be a bronco at heart, but after a long thought out decision I have decided to chase my professional dream for the Chicago Cubs. #cubs”
Martarano spent the summers of 2014 and 2015 playing in the Cubs’ minor league system after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2014 draft. He decided not to play baseball last summer, focusing on football. The Fruitland High grad started the Broncos’ season opener at Louisiana, but suffered a knee injury that slowed him down until late in the season. He started again Nov. 18 against UNLV, but broke his leg against the Rebels. He had 25 tackles in the nine games he played as a junior in 2016.
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The Broncos started spring practices Monday, and Martarano was taking part in drills in the sessions open to the media, but Wednesday’s practice was closed.
Calls to Martarano and his father, Victor, were not returned Wednesday night. Martarano’s Instagram bio has been changed to read “Professional baseball player for the Chicago cubs. Former College Linebacker for Boise state university.” Martarano spoke to the media Nov. 3, the day after the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.
“It’s cool that it’s still there, if football doesn’t work out, that they’re holding my contract,” Martarano said. “I signed a four-year contract and I’ve played two years of it, so if football doesn’t work out I could go back and give it a shot.”
Martarano was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 13th round in 2013 out of high school, but likely would have been taken higher if not for his desire to also play football. In 2014, he played in four games in the rookie-level Arizona League, going 2-for-13 at the plate, but hit .315 in 14 games there in 2015. He played in four games that summer with the Eugene Emeralds in the Single-A Northwest League, where he was 2-for-15. If he is assigned to Eugene again, the Emeralds play June 20-22 and Aug. 8-10 against the Boise Hawks at Memorial Stadium.
With a tattoo of the Major League Baseball logo on his calf, Martarano said last year he wanted to play in the NFL, but was not ready to give up baseball entirely.
“No baseball, just want to be the best football player I can be, work out with the guys, be in meetings, all that,” Martarano said last April when he decided to focus on football.
With Martarano’s departure, Boise State’s likely No. 1 middle linebacker is sophomore Tyson Maeva, who had 21 tackles in 12 games last season as a true freshman. The other two middle linebackers on the roster (redshirt freshman Solo Taylor and junior Joe Provenzano) are walk-ons. Provenzano played in two games last season, making seven tackles against New Mexico.
The Broncos signed a middle linebacker last month in Ezekiel Noa, but he is likely going to redshirt after having knee surgery in January. Riley Whimpey, a signee expected to return from a church mission this summer, played in the middle in high school.
Just one senior linebacker remains on the roster: strongside linebacker Blake Whitlock, who joined the team last summer as a walk-on and earned a scholarship during fall camp.