The Obit For Lefty Martin

Our View: 'Lefty' Martin leaves a void in Imperial
July 31, 2012

There are few people in this world, and nearly none that we know of in the Imperial Valley — besides one — who are instantly recognizable by one name, and a nickname at that.

One man comes to mind, where if a person has had any amount of time in the Valley, tales of his infectious personality and 1,000-watt smile will have made it back to you in one single moniker.


He died on Monday, succumbing to a battle with cancer. The Imperial Valley lost quite a personality in Lefty, whose given name — which was almost never used — was Alvin Martin.

He was best known around this Valley as a sports guy, playing high school and minor league baseball, as well as coaching countless generations of young men.

But he was also known as a firefighter for an amount of time, an artist later in life, and frankly, the best greeter anyone could ever imagine, as he manned the door at Costco in the last several years with the same kind of electricity, magnetism and passion with which he did everything else.

If there was a bond between all of these pursuits, a connection that drew people to Lefty, whether it was through his life in sports or a simple social interaction on the street, it was people. He had the rare ability to navigate different personalities, draw you out of your shell, make you feel better about yourself and the world, and to be motivated for the day.

This guy had power — the power to inspire and make you believe. That is what made him so successful and synonymous with Imperial Valley sports, especially baseball. We all know sports is the embodiment of physical excellence, but so much of it is mental, especially baseball. And Lefty knew this.

He knew how to focus a kid’s passion and enthusiasm into expecting and achieving something beyond the ordinary. He drew that out of his own children, as three sons played baseball, two of them playing professional and semi-pro baseball.

He did this outside the sports arena as well, finding that unique way to frame a lesson, as one former fellow El Centro firefighter put it, where even the densest among us could gain insight into himself and ourselves.

We don’t profess to know everything about Lefty, what he was like in his private life or anything else beyond a collective several dozen interactions, quotes and conversations, as well as countless testimonials.

But from all of this evidence, from all that was said of the man and all that we saw that was good, kind and giving, he walked the way he talked. It doesn’t get any simpler or more succinct than that; a few concise, meaningful words for a man known simply by one — Lefty.