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Debut homer helps Bisons win; Martin goes long in first home game

It was only a few days ago when Dustin Martin was on his way to Connecticut to play independent baseball.

Saturday afternoon, he cranked a home run for the Buffalo Bisons.

Martin, who was signed as a minor league free agent last week, made his starting lineup debut for the Herd at Coca-Cola Field and homered in his first at-bat in a 4-3 win over the Rochester Red Wings. Martin was 2 for 4 on the day against his former team.

Martin had spent the last three seasons with Rochester. He went to major league spring training with the Minnesota Twins, but the 28-year old outfielder found himself out of a job when he was released on March 28.

Without a baseball home, Martin waited for the phone to ring. It finally did. It was the New York Mets calling, the team which drafted him in the 26th round in 2006.

The pickup couldn't have come at a better time for Martin. He played full seasons in Rochester in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Last season, he batted .265 with 53 RBIs and five home runs.

But the last few weeks were some of the toughest of his professional career.

"I got released, and it was definitely a tough time," Martin said. "I went home for a couple of weeks, waited for some phone calls and tried to figure out what I wanted to do."

While doing his soul searching, some friends convinced him to play independent ball in Connecticut. That began a crazy ride last week.

"I landed at JFK, drove right next to Citi Field and went, man I should be going there instead of going to indy ball. That's what I was thinking in my head," Martin said. "I was at lunch with Toby Stoner, who used to play [in Buffalo], and Adam Wogan [the Mets director of player development] called me and said do you want to play. I said, 'Yeah I want to play.' So I go to Double-A, unpack my stuff, then I get called up to Triple-A before I can take [batting practice] with them. I played that night."

He came with the team to Buffalo on Friday. That afternoon, standing outside the Bison clubhouse, he said hello to his former teammates as the Rochester Red Wings filed into the stadium. Unusual to kick off his first homestand with his new team against his former team? Not really.

"That's just baseball," Martin said. "You play wherever you are."

email: amoritz@buffnews.com