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Seattle prospect Bobby Madritsch spells out his Native American heritage

The Associated Press


PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - Bobby Madritsch wears his Native American heritage not on his sleeve, but under it. He has a dark blue tattoo that spells the word "Lakota" on his left forearm.   "That's the tribe I'm from," he said. It's doubtful opposing hitters have time to read it when the lefty launches a 98-mph fastball, even though the tattoo spans 8 inches from the elbow to wrist of the Seattle Mariners prospect.   Born and raised in the Chicago area, Madritsch is half Sioux and proud to display it. It's one of 13 tattoos on his arms and torso, many with Indian themes, each marking a significant point in his life.   "Once I got one, it was downhill after that," Madritsch said.   He wasn't invited to spring training to show off his body art, though.   Last season he set a Northern League record with 153 strikeouts in 19 games for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The 26-year-old Madritsch threw 125-plus innings, going 11-4 with a 2.30 ERA.   "He's raw, very raw, but he's got a tremendous arm," said Pat Rice, the Mariners' minor-league pitching coordinator.   But it gets tougher from here.   "Once I got signed by the Mariners and came to instructional ball, I knew I wasn't going to be able to throw my fastball and changeup by people anymore," he said. "These guys are good hitters."   Madritsch is developing a breaking ball, working on his mechanics and trying to make up for lost time. He missed the 1999 season and much of 2000 after reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder.   A sixth-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in the June 1998 draft, Madritsch was 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA at Billings in rookie ball that summer, leading the Pioneer League with 87 strikeouts.   After his surgery and time away from baseball, Madritsch bounced around the independent leagues before reaching Winnipeg. He had no organizational support for two years until signing with Seattle last fall.   Given another chance, Madritsch is thinking big.   "My goal is to break camp with the big league team," he said. "If that wasn't my goal, I don't think I should be here. If it doesn't happen, my next goal is to do well wherever I go and to be in the big leagues by the end of the year."   According to researchers at the Baseball Hall of Fame library, the last Native American player in the majors was John Henry Johnson, a left-handed reliever who threw from 1978-87 for the Athletics, Rangers, Red Sox and Brewers.   There have been 20 to 30 Native American major leaguers, but the exact number is difficult to determine. Most researchers define the threshold as being at least one-quarter Indian.   Madritsch hopes to be next.   He's likely to start the season at double-A San Antonio. Depending on his performance and circumstances such as injuries to other players, a promotion to triple-A Tacoma or even a call-up to the majors can't be ruled out.   "He's not terrible with his mechanics, but there are some things he can do to make himself more consistent," Rice said.   Madritsch was raised by his father, a trucker, and never knew his mother, a full-blooded Sioux from South Dakota. He knows nothing more than her name, Glenda, because she left home when he was two months old.   "I've never even talked to her," Madritsch said.   After growing up with no exposure to his Native American side, Madritsch has begun to explore it in recent years. He designs many of his tattoos, which he says allows him to honour relatives while blending his heritage and sport.   There's a Medicine Wheel on his neck, added after his surgery because Madritsch believed it would help his shoulder heal. He's got a Dream Catcher on his left biceps that features a baseball in the middle of a web.   "Playing baseball is a dream of mine," Madritsch said. "My body art and my heritage are things I take seriously."   Another tattoo, on his chest, touched off a controversy in Winnipeg when his picture was published in a newspaper. It's a Native American peace sign, Madritsch says, that was infamously warped into a sinister symbol as a Nazi swastika.   "People didn't understand what it means," Madritsch said. "Some people complained to the club. They thought I was a skinhead. The paper ran another story to explain the real meaning."   Madritsch said he harbours no supremacist beliefs. In fact, he hopes to be a role model to Indian children.   "I want to be a good example," he said. "I want them to know that if you work hard and if you're dedicated and serious, then your dreams can come true. No matter what you want, you can be a lawyer or a doctor or whatever."   Maybe even a major-league pitcher.

February 22, 2003


Wednesday, December 18th, 2002
Winnipeg Free Press
By Bryan Borzykowski

Up and coming baseball star Bobby Madritsch set aside his fastball yesterday to tell students at Maples Collegiate to stay focused, reach for goals, and don't quit.   The school invited the former Winnipeg Goldeyes pitcher, who recently signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners, to speak about his life and his native American background.   What they got was a glimpse into the struggle and triumph that is Madritsch's life.   "I have a mother that I've never met, and I was pretty much raised by my dad," said Madritsch, who grew up and still resides in Chicago.   As a teenager, the brawny athlete got involved with gangs.   "I more or less did it because it was the cool thing to do," he said. "One of my friends got shot in the back of the head, and then it (wasn't) so fun anymore." With the help of his friends, Madritsch was able to distance himself from the gang scene.   Although Madritsch did not know his mother growing up, she was able to give him something that will last forever.   His mother was 100 per cent Sioux Indian and, just after high school, the pitcher began looking at his heritage and getting in touch with his native American roots.   "(I'm) just proud to be native American, just because there are not many of us around."    After the speech, Madritsch said his quest to discover his roots has enhanced his life.   "It gives me a sense of motivation and I know I'll need all the confidence and motivation I can get at this point." Madritsch told the packed school theatre: "Whatever hard times you go through in life, you're gonna hit rough spots. Everybody does."   Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998, Madritsch was ready to play in the big leagues, but a career-threatening shoulder injury sidelined him and required him to undergo surgery.   "My own doctor told me to give up 'cause you're not going to come back from the surgery. When you hear that at 22 from your own doctor, you kind of have nothing."   As with most of Madritsch's experiences he kept focused and tried to achieve his goals.   "I love baseball that much... and my number one goal was to come back from the surgery." Madritsch was released from the Reds in 2001 and played for the Goldeyes in 2002.