Thomas College is honoring Antonio Martinez, a student who died in June 2020, with a memorial bullpen at H. Allen Ryan Field and three student scholarships in his name. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas College

Thomas College in Waterville and the family of Antonio Martinez, a student who died suddenly on June 21, 2020, a day after graduation, are honoring his memory on Saturday by unveiling a memorial bullpen at H. Allen Ryan Field.

They also will recognize three students with scholarships in Martinez’s name.

Antonio Martinez pictured at his college graduation. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas College

“Antonio was a beloved member of the campus community,” Associate Vice President of Advancement Erin Baltes said. “It [his death] was very upsetting. Having someone pass away after they reach that life milestone is hard, and it shook our community, our students especially.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college was unable to immediately gather the campus community to commemorate Martinez, who was a member of the baseball team, when he died in a car crash on Interstate 295. More than a year after his death, a refurbished bullpen with new signage will be unveiled in his memory. For Martinez’s family members, who are traveling from Florida to attend, the event will offer a chance to honor Martinez and his accomplishments at Thomas College alongside his friends and peers.

The college’s Student Philanthropy Team raised more than $6,400 — including contributions from 143 donors — which funded the baseball program projects and scholarships. The bullpen will be called the Antonio Martinez ‘20 Memorial Bullpen, a college spokesperson said.

The dedication will take place following the alumni baseball game at 11 a.m. Saturday, at H. Allen Ryan Field. From 15 to 20 alumni will face the Thomas College Terriers, Baltes said.

The scholarships, worth $1,000 each, will be awarded to three full-time undergraduate students in their second, third or fourth years of college. Preference was given to students in good academic standing who are residents of Florida — where Martinez grew up — or students from outside of Maine.

“The fundraising was a total community effort to rally around Antonio and do something positive in his legacy,” Baltes said.

Martinez, who was 22 years old when he died, studied criminal justice at Thomas College. He was a member of the Kappa Delta Phi fraternity. Martinez was also a poet, sharing his creative spirit with his community, according to a campus message from Thomas College President Laurie Lachance.

Martinez worked at an area animal shelter for about three and a half years and was later hired by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve corrections officer following an internship, his mother Silvia Martinez said.

He had dreamed of becoming a police officer in Florida or Maine, she said.

“Antonio was my best friend,” she said, adding he was the oldest of four boys. “We talked all the time about everything. He was kind-hearted, he was loyal, he was the kid who everybody wanted to be his friend. If you knew him, you loved him. There was just no other way around it.”

Silvia Martinez will be speaking at the event Saturday. She wants her son to be remembered for his kind and caring personality and his hopeful outlook on life.

“This trip is important because Antonio touched so many lives,” she said. “After his passing, we were told so many stories by people who said, if it wasn’t for Antonio, they wouldn’t be here. Stories of people who wanted to end their lives. He listened and took them under his wing, so to say, to keep them protected.”

Antonio Martinez’s father, Oscar, will also be in attendance, along with his brothers — Oscar Jr., Giovanni and Silvio — and his grandmother, or “Nonna,” Francesca.

The family is hoping for some sense of closure and looks forward to celebrating Antonio Martinez’s life alongside people who loved him, Silvia Martinez said.

“We miss him,” she said. “We miss his jokes, his laugh, his smile. We just miss him.”