Martin not returning as team GM
By Cory Giger
“Dad, do you love your job more than you love me?”
When he heard his 10-year-old son, Rory, ask him that question a couple of months ago, Derek Martin knew it was the final straw.
Martin realized then that he soon would be ending his tenure as the Altoona Curve’s general manager, which began in October of 2016 and will conclude today when the franchise makes it official.
Martin is stepping down as the GM and will be succeeded by Nate Bowen, who has served as the Curve’s assistant GM since the fall of 2018 and has been with the club since 2013.
“It was always my dream to eventually run the Altoona Curve, basically where I got my start,” said Martin, who previously worked for the club from 2002-07.
While working in the sports industry is the dream of many people, the harsh reality is that it often requires long hours, which can take a toll. It’s common for minor league employees to work 80 hours or more during a week-long homestand.
As a minor league GM, Martin found himself going to work at 7:30 a.m. and getting back home after 11 p.m. when the Curve had home games.
He wasn’t able to attend Rory’s All-Star games in August because he had to work. So, that led to the heartfelt moment that made final Martin’s decision to leave the Curve.
“One night I missed the All-Star game, and whenever I got home I checked in with Rory like I normally do to see how he did,” Martin said. “He was excited that he got a hit and made a nice catch. And I was like, ‘That’s awesome, man.'”
Then came the question from Rory about which his dad loved more, him or his job.
“Right after he said that, my heart just sunk to the floor,” Martin said.
“A lot of my friends and peers in minor league baseball, we work a lot of hours. But the nice part is those long hours, it’s typically six months out of the year. Unfortunately, when you have kids, those six months are when they have a lot of activities.”
Martin, 42, and his wife, Abby, live in Roaring Spring with their three children: Rory (10), Hudson (8) and Molly (5).
Martin will remain with the Curve as a senior advisor and also plans to be part of a startup insurance agency called the Leavitt-Webber Group.
“It’s such a great situation for me and my family to be in,” he said of his new opportunities.
“It was a dream of mine to take on this role (with the Curve), and I’ve been fortunate to do it for five years. We couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone.”
The Curve raised their average attendance during Martin’s first three years as GM, topping out at 4,604 per game in 2019. There was no minor league season in 2020, and despite dealing with COVID restrictions early this year, the Curve were able to top the 4,000 milestone again, finishing at 4,032.
“My favorite accomplishment is each year from 2017 through 2019 increasing the average attendance,” he said. “We did that as a staff, which was pretty awesome.”
Bowen, 34, has been an integral part of the Curve staff for nearly a decade, initially serving as a backup broadcaster while always being one of the club’s sales leaders.
“I could not be more excited for this opportunity,” Bowen said. “We have a great staff in place, and I look forward to growing along with them in 2022.
“It means a lot that the Lozinaks are putting their trust in me with the GM position. They have been great to work with since my first day back in 2013, and I am looking forward to building on the family culture they have created in Altoona.”
Martin helped build on that family culture led by owners Bob and Joan Lozinak, while also returning to his roots of some crazy antics learned while working for former Curve GM Todd Parnell. Martin and Parnell remain close to this day.
“These were unprecedented times, and D-Mar is a great example of someone who led day by day exceptionally well without a playbook, because we didn’t have a pandemic playbook” said Parnell, now chief executive officer of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
“D-Mar is a great person, and I am honored to have been his teammate and a friend for life. Much love and success to him and his family.”
Martin said he’s very proud of his tenure as GM, and he believes Bowen will do an exceptional job taking over the position.
“Whenever I was talking to the Lozinaks and Sal (Baglieri) and a couple other mentors of mine, there was never a doubt in mind that Nate was ready to take this position on,” Martin said.
“He works his tail off with everything that he gets. Nothing is given to him. He works very hard at the art of selling and the marketing in the sports industry. His work ethic is fantastic. He’s a guy that if you give a task to him, you never have to worry about it getting done.”
Cory Giger will have a column with a closer look at the Curve’s new GM, Nate Bowen, in the Mirror’s weekend edition.