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Wrigley visit sparking memories for Rays' Martinez

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Wrigley visit sparking memories for Rays' Martinez

CHICAGO -- It's been a nice homecoming at Wrigley Field for Rays bench coach Dave Martinez.

Martinez broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 1986, and played with the team until July 14, 1988, when he was traded to the Expos for Mitch Webster. He returned to the Cubs in 2000, but was traded again to the Rangers in June of that year.

The former outfielder said he spent the first five innings of Friday's game talking about Wrigley and former Cubs manager Don Zimmer, who died in June. The Rays wear a "Zim" patch on the sleeve of their uniform in Zimmer's memory.

"[Joe Maddon] has been to Boston and other places, but he was saying, 'This is unbelievable,'" Martinez said of the Rays manager, who had never been inside Wrigley until this weekend's Interleague series. "I had told him, 'When you come here and see the ivy on the wall and the stadium, you're looking at baseball history.' That's what I look at every time. I've always told everybody it's my favorite place to play. You just get goose bumps thinking about playing here."

Zimmer managed the Cubs from 1988-91, and the team topped the National League East that year with a 93-69 record. In 2004, he became a senior baseball advisor with the Rays.

"Zim never goes away," Martinez said. "To this day, I never think Zim is gone. We left his locker as is. We're never going to take it down."

Martinez, 49, nearly returned to Wrigley Field as the manager. He interviewed last offseason and was a finalist for the job, which was given to then-Padres bench coach Rick Renteria.

"I like Rick, he's a great guy and I think he's done a great job," Martinez said. "This organization is definitely heading in the right direction. They have plenty of young kids in the Minor Leagues. I look at them now, and look at how [the Rays] were when we started -- and they're headed in the same direction."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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