Joe Martarano took part in Boise State’s first spring football practice Monday, and he felt fine, at least physically. Coming off a broken ankle suffered Nov. 18, he still wasn’t quite 100 percent. But his heart was elsewhere.
Martarano decided Wednesday he will be leaving his football career behind and returning to baseball full-time as a member of the Chicago Cubs organization. He spoke with the Idaho Statesman on Thursday about the decision.
“I’d been talking to the Cubs off and on since I got hurt, just been going over everything with them, what they think, and they thought whatever I wanted to do, it’s best I play full-time,” Martarano said. “I talked to the (Boise State) coaches before Monday, they wanted me to do both. I wanted to give it a try, but I knew I had to make a decision sooner than later.”
In Boise State’s season opener Sept. 3, Martarano injured his knee at Louisiana, forcing him to miss the next week against Washington State, and then had the season-ending injury in the team’s home finale.
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“My whole life, I wanted to be a professional athlete, and if I had another year like I did last year, I didn’t want an injury to close the door for me on both sports,” Martarano said.
Martarano intends to finish out the semester at Boise State before going to extended spring training in Arizona. He said he likely will start out playing for the Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League, giving him opportunities to play most days and get back into baseball shape. The Emeralds play against the Boise Hawks at Memorial Stadium in two three-game series: June 20-22 and Aug. 8-10.
“I’m obviously pretty raw when it comes to baseball, but I know physically, I have a better shot with my power, it can translate and I think I have a pretty high ceiling,” Martarano said.
Though he said it was a luxury to be able to decide between playing pro baseball or try to make it in the NFL, Martarano said it was not an easy decision, one that he pondered over for a while.
“It’s something I could’ve decided to do in January or whatever, but it was tough because I enjoyed being at Boise State, was probably going to be a starting senior middle linebacker,” Martarano said. “All the players and coaches were understanding, maybe some fans will be disappointed, but hope they understand, too.”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, on his weekly spot on KTIK 93.1 FM said: “unfortunately, that does hurt us. He was fantastic as a player and a teammate here, would like to see him finish his career ... but at the same time, he was faced with the dilemma of ‘I might not get the chance to play baseball with this organization if I don’t go ahead and go with what they’re asking me to do.’ That’s a risk that’s really hard to take in his situation.”