Catching up with UA softball's Malia Martinez

Caleb Villegas | The Daily Wildcat

Malia Martinez (17) focuses on an incoming ground ball in the fourth inning of the Arizona-Alabama on Saturday Feb. 16 in Tucson, Ariz. in the Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats lost to Alabama 1-6.

The Arizona softball team is on a winning streak this season now at 20 games. One of the key players who’s made an impact on this team is the third baseman Malia Martinez. The Daily Wildcat recently caught up with free-swinging Martinez to share her story.

Martinez was born in San Diego in April of 1998 to Edgar and Dacia Martinez, and she said it was difficult not being able to see her father due to him serving for the U.S. Navy. 

“He was always deployed,” Martinez said.

However, her mother made it easy for her to keep going.

“She was the one that instilled the competitive drive into both my sister and I,” Martinez said. 

Arizona's Malia Martinez hits the incoming pitch from Oregon during the Arizona-Oregon State game at the Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Sunday, April 29 in Tucson Ariz.

Martinez’s older sibling, Li’ana Martinez, made one of the biggest impacts in her involvement with softball.

“I was the annoying little sister following her around doing the same thing,” Martinez, a junior, said.

Martinez began playing softball at the age of five and played other sports including volleyball and basketball. It was not until high school where she felt she needed to focus more on softball. Martinez attended Poway High School and has quite the resume. Martinez was a four-year letter winner under head coach Jim Bennet. She was named 2016 Palomar League Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state performer as a junior and senior. 

Even with all those accomplishments and milestones throughout her high school career, it was her junior year where she led the team to an Open Division CIF Championship. Martinez also put up outstanding numbers -- she posted a .330 batting average, .409 on-base percentage and .530 slugging as a senior.

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After having an outstanding high school career, UCLA called to recruit her. Being from San Diego, the decision to stay close to home was tempting, but Martinez chose Arizona. The UA was the first campus she visited and felt comfortable right away. 

“Arizona is such an incredible school,” Martinez said, who plans to major in physiology to pursue a career in either physical therapy or pharmacology.

With Moana as her middle name, many people have asked her if she has thought about using any of the songs from the movie "Moana" as her walk-up song. 

“No, I wouldn’t pick any of the songs. Sorry,” Martinez said laughing. “It was funny when that movie came out.” 

Her song of choice is "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey.

Arizona's Malia Martinez throws to first base, getting Cal's hitter out during the Arizona- California game at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Saturday March 31 in Tucson Ariz.

“Listening to my parents' music growing up is where I learned about Mariah Carey,” she said. “I also listen to a lot of reggae.”

The Wildcat softball team is comprised of many Californians which Martinez says is “cool because then I know a lot of people coming in and then you get to meet new people.” 

From being an everyday shortstop, Martinez was moved a bit to the right side her senior year of high school. Now an everyday third baseman, Martinez made a quick adjustment. 

"For me, I thought it was an easy transition,” Martinez said. “I personally like it a bit more.”

Her unique style includes a jump after every pitch which helps her time herself and get ready for a play. 

“I learned that in my senior year of high school,” Martinez said, noting it helps her keep her rhythm and stay focused rather than being frozen and stiff. “Every single pitch, I’m ready."

Martinez so far is having one of her best seasons yet, already having a .359 batting average and slugging .648 in 43 games played and started. Martinez described how she doesn’t focus on her personal goals or stats and how it’s more of a team thing. 

“I have faith in this team,” Martinez said. “They’re such amazing players. I’ve learned so much from each of them individually.”

Martinez’s advice to all young athletes: “Definitely never stop working. Take advantage of every opportunity given because it’s going to take you a long way.”

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