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Soldier predicted future for Martinez

Soldier predicted future for Martinez

WASHINGTON -- The Cleveland Indians staged an amazing ninth-inning comeback on Saturday, but at least one person saw it coming.

Earlier in the day, a group of players visited wounded soldiers at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Starting pitcher Paul Byrd and first baseman Victor Martinez were part of the group that made the trip.

Byrd and Martinez visited with a solder who had been shot in the head in Iraq. A sniper's bullet had gone through his temple, but he miraculously survived. As they left, they said that they would try to win the game for him later that night.

"He said, 'Don't worry, you're going to,'" Byrd recalled. "'You just shook a lucky hand. I got shot in the temple and I'm still here, so it's a done deal.'"

Martinez had just shook the solder's hand. A few hours later, he hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lead the team to a 4-3 victory.

"I thought it was more than coincidence," Byrd said. "It was really nice the way it worked out."

The soldier was a private in the Army. The hospital requests that visitors not disclose the names of soldiers who are being treated.

While Byrd himself had a strong outing, pitching 6 2/3 innings to set the team up for victory, that wasn't what he wanted to talk about after the game.

"I won't ever forget it," he said. "We saw a guy who was missing a leg and had a broken arm, and he was saying that he'd do it all [over] again.

"Of course you want to win, and give it your all. But it's hard to complain that I jammed somebody and they got a base hit. It's hard to complain that I picked that guy off of first but the umpire missed it. Things that would normally send me through the roof -- I got a new perspective on that."

Byrd and Martinez were a few of the Indians players and coaches who visited either Bethesda or Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Saturday. Martinez was impressed by the dedication and service of the troops, and said he was inspired by them.

"God bless them," he said. "They do stuff for this country that will stay with them for the rest of their life."

Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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