Josef Martinez smiled when he saw the Golden Boot, the trophy earned by finishing as the leading scorer in MLS with a league-record 31 goals.
His smile grew even more bright when he saw the courier: Braves outfielder, and Martinez’s friend and fellow Venezuelan, Ender Inciarte.
“Special delivery, baby,” Inciarte said as he walked around a corner toward Martinez.
“He surprised me, I thought he was on vacation,” Martinez said.
“I was supposed to be on vacation but came here for Josef,” Inciarte said.
With Martinez holding the trophy, literally a golden soccer shoe, the two spoke in Spanish for a few seconds before Martinez described what Inciarte giving him the award meant to him.
“It’s a big surprise,” Martinez said. “I’m really happy that he’s here because he’s a great friend. I’ve always been a big lover of baseball, so this means a lot that he’s the person giving it to me.”
The friendship started on social media before Inciarte joined the Braves in 2016 from the Diamondbacks. Martinez threw out the first pitch before a Braves game this year. Inciarte, a soccer fan, said Martinez is a much better baseball player than he is a soccer player.
Inciarte said he was very proud to give Martinez the hard-earned award as his friend and his countrymen. Inciarte said many people in Venezuela follow what Martinez and Atlanta United are doing.
“He’s from my country and representing us so well,” Inciarte said. “I’m just happy to be giving this award to him. He deserves it and the whole country is proud of him representing us here in the U.S. He’s been doing a great job on and off the field. We are proud of what he’s accomplishing.”
Martinez joked that Inciarte may have more Golden Gloves (2) than he has Golden Boots, but hopefully there’s more on the way.
Martinez then turned his attention and thoughts to Atlanta United’s upcoming playoff series against NYCFC, which starts on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The return leg will be Nov. 11 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“That’s why we are here, to win things,” Martinez said. “If it’s as a team, that’s even better because it’s more important.”
Martinez joked that he was going to give the trophy to Inciarte, before continuing the joke by saying he may sell it. Last year, he downplayed competing for the Golden Boot by saying that he could just buy one.
He said his favorite goal was the record-breaker, No. 28, at Orlando City. Martinez liked it because it helped the team defeat Orlando, which he said played well, maybe the best they’ve ever played against Atlanta United.
After almost 14 minutes of questions, Martinez’s teammates came into the room at the training facility in Marietta and congratulated him on his accomplishment.
“I’m very happy because it’s been a long road,” Martinez said. “Last year I was close, but I had to deal with a lot of injuries. I’ve come a long way. I want to dedicate to God, my teammates and my family.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.