Pilots' great Martel dies

WARREN, Mich.  – One of the most valuable three-sport athletes in De La Salle Collegiate history, Ed Martel was a fighter to the end.

Mr. Martel, who graduated in 1987 and was drafted by the New York Yankees, died Saturday following an 18-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 49.

“Our community has been blessed over the years with young men who grow up to become men who live out their faith in extraordinary ways. Ed Martel was such a man,” De La Salle President John M. Knight said. “Ed was an accomplished student athlete during his years at De La Salle Collegiate, but more importantly Ed was a man who embraced life and loved it deeply. All of us at De La Salle Collegiate mourn Ed’s passing. Our prayers and thoughts are with his loved ones as we join them in celebrating and remembering an exceptional man.”

Mr. Martel excelled in the classroom and in athletics. A two-year member of the National Honor Society, he truly shined at football, basketball and baseball, where he completed the rare athletic trifecta – being named all-league and all-county in all three sports as a senior. A recipient of the Brother Kevin Gilhooly Award, given annually to the senior athlete of the year, he helped the Pilots to a league co-championship on the gridiron, as well as a berth in the Class A state basketball semifinals in 1986.

But baseball was his passion.

“I had the pleasure of coaching Ed in basketball during his junior and senior years,” former coach Gary Buslepp said. “Baseball was obviously his first love, but he guided the 1986-87 basketball team to a spot in the Catholic League playoffs and district championship as the starting point guard. His defensive prowess and intensity allowed him to cover the other team’s best guard. He was relentless in his efforts.

“He approached everything he did in school and athletics full tilt, never holding back. He always had a great smile on his face after a win and detested losing. Ed always gave credit to God and his parents, Dorothy and Ed, for developing his talent. He was an even better student than athlete.”

Selected by New York in the 11th round of the 1987 amateur draft, Mr. Martel played seven minor-league seasons with the Yankees (1987-92) and the Detroit Tigers (1995). In 1989, while playing for the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees, he earned a spot on the Florida State League All-Star team.

But Mr. Martel’s best pro season came two years later at Double-A Albany. That year, the 6-foot-1 right-hander led the Eastern League with 13 wins and 141 strikeouts in 163.1 innings.

He was inducted into the De La Salle Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

“While Ed was pitching in the Yankees minor league system, by chance I saw him pitch in Harrisburg, Penn., during our family vacation,” Buslepp said. “As he walked to the bullpen to warm up, we had the chance to speak briefly along the fence line. I vividly recall him crediting his parents and his De La Salle experiences for helping him reach professional baseball.

“Ed truly was worthy and deserving of his De La Salle Hall of Fame induction. He will be missed.”

Following a playing career that was marred by shoulder and elbow injuries, Mr. Martel returned to school, earning an economics degree from Northwestern University (1997) and a Masters in Physical Therapy from Oakland University (2002).

In 2000, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After months of chemotherapy and rehabilitation, the cancer returned in 2003, and he underwent a bone marrow transplant that same year.

Mr. Martel was a survivor and repeatedly beat the odds. He was an inspiration to everyone he met.

He co-owned HealthQuest Physical Therapy with his wife Julie and also was a developer of the Overhead Athletic Institute. In his spare time he enjoyed golfing, but most of all spending time with his family.

Besides his wife and parents, Martel is survived by his three children – Elyse, Edward, and Luke – and siblings Anne Martinez, Elizabeth Martel and Michael Martel.

Visitation is Friday, Oct. 5 from 2-9 p.m. at the Lee-Ellena Funeral Home, located at 46530 Romeo Plank in Macomb Township. A rosary is planned for 7 p.m. A funeral mass will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 at 11 a.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church, 95 Market Street in Mt. Clemens.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society.