Lorena Martin was hired just over a year ago to fill a position unique to baseball. No other organization before the Seattle Mariners had a director of high performance in the baseball operations department.
But on Monday, just over a month after the Mariners fired her, Lorena Martin posted a string of heavy comments to her Instagram and Twitter accounts, leveling accusations of racism and discrimination and specifically naming general manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and director of player development Andy McKay.
Martin said she witnessed their poor leadership and racism first hand, calling Latino players “LAZY, DUMB, and STUPID, especially the DOMINICANS,” she posted.
Reached for clarification on Monday night, Martin told The News Tribune that Dipoto, in a meeting with Martin and McKay in January, called her a “cocky Latina.” In that same meeting McKay said Dominican players are “just plain stupid” and, in a separate meeting, Servais told her that you don’t see Latino catchers or managers because “they aren’t bright enough. They are dumb.”
Martin said she reported these incidents in several meetings with the team’s human resources since spring training and to multiple Mariners staff members. She said she felt she was fired in retaliation for that. She also said she has hired an attorney and is seeking wrongful termination.
“It’s been torture,” she said. “I was kind of scared at times.”
The Mariners strongly denied all of Martin’s allegations. Mariners vice president of communications Tim Hevly said he reached out to Dipoto, Servais and McKay on Monday night before providing a statement to The News Tribune.
“These claims are not true,” Hevly said. “They are completely false and ludicrous. She is fabricating stories, including about her reports to human resources and the people named in this story.
“In at least one instance there were others in the room who can confirm that the stories did not happen as she related they did.”
This was after the Mariners released a statement in response to Martin’s social media posts, denying any wrongdoing and noting that Martin’s accusations came after she was relieved of her duties, not before.
Martin signed a three-year contract last offseason that made her responsible for all aspects of the Mariners’ physical and mental training approach to players and staff, including their minor league affiliates. She was given broad oversight over the club’s medical, strength and conditioning, nutrition and mental skills departments.
The Mariners trumpeted Martin’s resume after hiring her from the Los Angeles Lakers. Her educational background includes three post-doctorates in GIS spatial analysis, biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. She earned her Ph.D in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami in 2013 and earned her Master of Science, Psychology from Nova Southeastern University in 2009 with a concentration is Sports Psychology. She’s also been a visiting scientist at the Salk Institute focusing on bioinformatics and has been an invited visiting researcher at NASA Langley.
Before that, Martin was a tennis player, competing at the amateur, college and professional levels.
“She checks off every box we were going to hit,” Dipoto had said when she was hired. “It is very rare to hire one person with so many levels of expertise.”
But she said Dipoto in January called her and McKay into his suite at Safeco Field to discuss McKay taking over supervision of the mental skills department. Martin said she argued against that because mental skills training was part of her contract.
“And (Dipoto) said, ‘You know what you are? You’re a cocky Latina,’” Martin said.
“I said, ‘No, I’m a confident person who is competent at what I do and I’ve been trained to do that. And later Andy said, ‘Well, you know, sometimes you’re just plain stupid.’ He loves to use that phrase – plain stupid.’”
She said that later in the conversation they discussed clubhouse culture and player buy in.
“And Andy says, ‘How are you going to do that with the Dominican players? They are lazy. And they are stupid. They are just stupid.’”
She also said that at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, Dipoto repeatedly punched a whiteboard when she again said that oversight of the mental skills department was part of her contract.
“Just this really aggressive behavior to intimidate me,” Martin said. “And he says, ‘This is bull(expletive). You keep getting after Andy.’ I said it had nothing to do with Andy, it’s just in my contract.’ And he kept punching the wall in the office, like big time.
“And then he was like, ‘Walk with me.’ We go downstairs and he kicks a door open and says (expletive) … at that point I was just saying I’m trying to do my job and oversee the department I’m supposed to oversee.”
Martin also said she was discriminated against for being a woman.
Mariners staff met with players in the clubhouse during spring training, asking about players’ families and upbringing. Martin said she thought she should attend at least those portions of the meetings and asked Servais if that would be OK.
“He said, ‘No,’” Martin said. “I asked if he could tell me why and he said, ‘Honestly, it’s because you are a woman.’
“You can’t make this stuff up. It’s just crazy. I went and told Jerry that I wasn’t allowed to sit with the players. He asked what Scott told me and I said it was because I’m a woman. He said, ‘Then listen to him. Don’t be there.’”
But she said that wasn’t her only terse encounter with Servais.
Martin said she introduced herself before a meeting to players in spring training and noticed that Dee Gordon and Felix Hernandez were eating fries.
“So I started off with a joke. I was like, ‘I’m Lorena from high performance, I’m here to help you eat better and not eat french fries like you guys are doing,’ ” Martin said. “And everybody laughed. It was a break-the-ice thing.”
She said it didn’t sit well with Servais.
“He said, ‘You know how you introduced yourself yesterday?’ Well, myself and the other coaches were like, ‘Who the (expletive) does she think she is?’” Martin recalled. “I just thought it was nice and funny and got people laughing. He was like, ‘That’s for me to do.’
“I swear to God he told me that: ‘Who the (expletive) do you think you are to make that joke to the players?’”
She also indicated on Twitter that the Mariners were negotiating a way to avoid paying the remaining two years on Martin’s three-year contract with the team, and that they were doing so “to keep me quiet.”
Martin said she felt the need to speak out Monday over the Mariners firing two trainers in the Dominican Republic, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez. The Seattle Times confirmed through an industry source that both men did not have their contracts renewed for next season, “which is basically like being fired.”
She said the Mariners offered her three months of severance pay, but that she turned it down.
“They wanted to negotiate to keep me quiet,” she posted on her Twitter.