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05/07/08 10:00 AM ET
Lending a helping hand
Martinez's donation helps needy kids get surgery
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
When Victor Martinez was voted by fans as the Indians' "Work Hard, Fly Right" MVP last season as part of a promotion by Continental Airlines, he received one million frequent-flyer miles to donate to a good cause. Martinez figured someone less fortunate than himself would get good use out of the miles. Months later, he would find out he was right. In April, Jose Luis and Jose Alfredo Duarte-Fuentes, twin brothers from Honduras, used the miles to fly to Cleveland for treatment at the Cleveland clinic. The 15-year-old boys had plastic surgery performed at the Clinic in November to address abnormalities in their appearance after they were badly burned in a fire as infants. The April visit was for a followup appointment and the second of two surgeries. Heyser Valenzuela, a teacher at the boys' school in Honduras, accompanied them on the trip. "When they were six months old, there were candles in their room that burned the bed," Valenzuela said. "They were in the bed. Their mother can't hear or speak, and she was outside the house, and she couldn't hear that happen in there. So an uncle of the boys went to help them, but they were badly burned." The Duarte-Fuentes boys were born into poverty. The Cleveland Clinic arranged for their flight tickets to Cleveland, and plastic surgeon Dr. Armand Lucas volunteered to perform the procedure. As an added perk, the boys got to take in their first baseball game at Progressive Field last week. They donned Martinez T-shirts for a while but were soon outfitted with Tribe sweatshirts given the 45-degree temperatures that day. "We like Cleveland," Jose Luis said through Valenzuela, acting as an interpreter. "It's cold, but it's a really nice place." Kristine Kascak, a communication associate from the Clinic, escorted the boys around the city. "These boys come from nothing," Kascak said. "I want to make sure [the visit] is not too overwhelming for them. They are very appreciative of everything." Part of that appreciation was directed toward Martinez. Not that they really knew or understood who the Indians' catcher is. Baseball, of course, isn't the most popular of sports in Honduras. "They don't know baseball," Valenzuela said. "In Honduras, futbol [soccer] is the sport. They are very good soccer players. They are on their school team. Maybe they can show the other boys at school how to play baseball." Martinez didn't give the boys any lessons as they took in batting practice on the field. But he did make it a point to introduce himself and gave each of them an autographed bat. "Victor asked us about how we are doing and if we like Cleveland and if everything is OK," Jose Alfredo said. The boys responded well to the surgeries and are slated to return to Honduras on May 9. And Martinez was more than happy to help out. "It's always nice when you see a smile on the face of kids," he said. "Those are kids who never got an opportunity to speak to a big league player or be in a big league stadium. It really makes my day. That's what it's all about. Whoever needs help, I'm more than happy to help."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.