Never intimidated, Martinez succeeds with boys of summer

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Tell Jennifer Martinez she throws like a girl and she's likely to fire a hard fastball right at your noggin.

Martinez is an 11-year-old girl, but she doesn't carry all the stereotypes when it comes to athletics.

Martinez is the woman of the next millennium, refusing to abide by society's gender rules.

She talks on the phone, listens to N'Sync and says she has a crush on band member Justin. Beyond that, she ignores everything some people think a girl is supposed to do. Her room is a mess, she doesn't care for makeup and when recess comes around, Martinez loves to mix it up with the boys in football.

She ditched the ballet shoes for the glove at age six, and this spring she was one of two girls to play baseball with the boys in her age group.

When slow-pitch softball began to offer little challenge or fun, baseball was her best option.

"Softball had gotten too slow, too boring and too easy," said Martinez. "Last season in softball, I hit 20 home runs in 10 games. I needed something different. Baseball is a lot more fun."

So Martinez signed up for Craig Youth Baseball. She was assigned to the Lube Plus Phillies.

Martinez was never intimidated by the boys, because she knew them from school, but since she was new to the sport, she felt she had something to prove to them and her coach.

Wanting to play first base, she hustled in every practice and threw every day with her dad.

"I knew I had to work harder than everyone," Martinez said. "I just really concentrated on never missing any balls."

While other girls watched their boyfriends play from the stands, Martinez was making plays on the field.

Pretty soon, everyone was watching her.

"She was just as good as they were," said mom, Janet. "She has a real strong arm."

It's no surprise that Martinez has had a passion for sports and has excelled in them. She has grown up in an athletic family, where playing games was the way of life.

Brother Jake, 21, the youngest of three boys, has been the most inspirational to her. Despite the 10-year age difference, Jennifer has always admired her big brother.

Jake played football, baseball and wrestled. He earned All-State honors in each, including the Medal of Outstanding Athlete when he graduated from Moffat County High School. For the last four years, he has played college baseball.

"I've grown up watching (Jake) ever since I was a baby," Jennifer said. "I always knew I wanted to play baseball."

Martinez is now playing fast-pitch softball on a 14-and-under team. She's back with the girls, but can't wait to play baseball again in the spring.

Martinez is holding a summer karaoke party later in July. She'll probably invite all her teammates over and make them listen to N'Sync.

Girls will be girls.

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