Pitcher doesn't just stand out on the baseball field

Call Jonathan Martin a triple threat.

As an all-conference pitcher with a fastball that approaches 90 mph, a talented musician who can play multiple instruments or an academic who is ranked second in his graduating class, the First Assembly Christian School senior has opened a lot of doors for himself when it comes to his future.

Coming off a junior season in which he had a team-best six home runs and a .409 batting average, Martin is poised to lead the Eagles to a second straight independent schools state, playing primarily at third base but also dabbling at first and in the pitching rotation.

When Tim Kirk became the Eagles' head coach at the start of the 2010-11 school year, he met Martin for the first time. Kirk detected a lack of confidence in Martin and recognized some flawed mechanics in his pitching motion.

Every other day, from December to March, Martin spent time in front of a household mirror, practicing the techniques his new coach recommended.

"He wasn't getting the lower half of his body in his motion," said Kirk. "He was using a lot of arm. (After making changes) he was then getting his entire body in his motion and he was able to explode to the target, so to speak."

Martin figured he probably threw close to 80 mph as a sophomore. On opening day last year, he and Kirk could already tell there was a difference.

Kirk tabbed Martin to start against visiting Covenant Day, a team he had never beaten before. Martin twirled a three-hit shutout, striking out six.

"I told him to attack the strike zone," said Kirk. "Once he got past the first inning, he just took off from there."

Once reliant on his curveball as his out pitch, Martin became more dependent on his new explosive fastball. He estimates that he now throws 10 fastballs for every breaking ball.

Other highlights from last year included a one-hitter versus Gaston Christian, a game which First Assembly won 1-0, and a couple of notable outings in the state playoffs.

In a 12-inning first round victory against Asheville Christian, Martin twirled three shut-out innings in relief. In a second round game against eventual state champion Kerr-Vance, Martin struck out 11 in a 4-0 loss.

"By the end of the season," Martin said. "I was blown away by how hard I was throwing."

Martin says he will be attending Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., where his brother and sister attend, but is unsure if he will play baseball there. He plans to major in psychology or music.

It was that combination of disciplines that got him playing the piano about five years ago. Already an established clarinetist in the school band, Martin picked up on the piano by watching YouTube videos. He said he learned his first song in about 10 minutes.

Over the last several years, Martin has continued to teach himself. He plays piano during Thursday Chapel services for First Assembly's praise and worship team. Martin also plays keyboard, baritone saxophone and bass guitar and can carry a basic beat on the drums.

Baseball and music aren't the only ways Martin has made his mark at First Assembly. A center and defensive end on its state championship-winning football team, Martin returned a fumble for a touchdown in a 12-0 regular season win over Carolina Pride last season.

This summer, Martin plans to return to the Concord American Legion Post 51 team.