ALTOONA, Pa. – Growing up in Clarion, Derek Martin learned the work ethic that has served him well throughout his professional career.
“I grew up in a very faith-based family”, Martin, whose mom, Deb and dad, Keith, still go to Immaculate Conception Church in Clarion, said. “My family instilled a great work ethic in me.”
That work ethic has helped Martin land his self-proclaimed dream job as General Manager of the Altoona Curve.
Martin, a 1998 Clarion High School graduate who played football – he was a slotback and cornerback on the 1997 District 9 championship team – basketball and ran track for the Bobcats, was named the GM of the Curve Friday.
“It’s a dream come true for me and my family,” Martin said. “Whenever I was there before (Martin worked in a variety of roles including as Director of Sales with the Curve from Nov. 2003 to 2007) that’s kind of the route I wanted to go.”
Martin, who spent 18 months as the Assistant General Manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans after leaving the Curve, got out of professional baseball in 2009 so that he and his wife, Abby, a native of the Altoona area, could move back to Pennsylvania to start a family.
He worked with Blue Knob Auto from 2009-2012 and for the Teeter Group from 2012-16 before the Curve job opened up unexpectedly when long-time general manager Rob Egan took a job with the Class AAA Charlotte Knights.
“I never thought Rob was going to leave Altoona,” Martin said. “But when he did, my wife said I had to go after it. My love for the Curve and Minor League baseball is strong. I missed it so much.”
The Curve, in fact, are the reason the Martins, who have three children (sons Rory, who is 5, and Hudson, who is 3, and daughter, Molly, who is 6 months old) are together.
And, no, they didn’t meet because they both worked for the team.
Abby’s mom, Betsy Garach, bought Derek. No, really, she did. She bid on him at a bachelor auction to benefit muscular dystrophy. The rest, as they say, is history.
“People are like, yeah right, that doesn’t happen,” Martin said. “It did. Whenever we lived in Myrtle BEach, we had to show people the (Altoona Mirror) article we had on our well. No one believed it. I was so lucky her mom was a season ticket holder and bid on me. I’m truly blessed. My mom says you can’t even make up a story like this.”
In part because of his mom and dad in Clarion – he has has two sisters, Nicole Holiday and Ashley Wells, – and Abby’s parents in Altoona, Martin sees the job with the Curve as an end game rather than a stepping stone.
“The Curve have had huge support the first 18 years of their existence, and I can’t wait to be her for the next 18 years and more,” Martin said. “My wife is a high school teacher (in the Northern Bedford School District). This is our home. My wife is from here. Clarion is two hours away. It’s close to all of our relatives.”
In part, because of his connection to Clarion County, Martin would love to get even more people than already come to Curve games from the area involved with the team.
“Clarion is the same distance from Pittsburgh as it is to Altoona,” Martin said. “I know the businesses and the people around Clarion. Hopefully, we get more support from Clarion and Jefferson Counties with businesses and people coming to the game.”
Martin said he has already been in touch with Jason Dambach, the president of the State College Spikes and a Punxsutawney native, about how the two franchises might be able to work together to attract support from their hometown areas.
“There are a lot of similarities between Clarion and Altoona,” Martin said. “Although there are a lot more one-way streets in Altoona.”
Martin said his dad and his grandfather, Keith Martin Sr., had a big influence on him as did Clarion football coach and teacher Larry Wiser.
“My dad is super excited,” Martin said. “He is so proud to talk about where I started from. He always told me stick with it, good things happen to good people and to treat others as you want to be treated. I am glad he gave me that advice. My parents have been there all throughout my career. They have been so supportive.”