Ernie Martinez celebrates his birthday with his family this year.

While attending Escondido High School in the 1980s, Ernie Martinez played all four years for Cougar baseball, including freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.

In his junior year, while playing on the varsity team, he vowed to his high school buddies, “By the time of our 10-year reunion, I’m going be in the big leagues.” They laughed at him.

At his high school reunion in 1994, Martinez had the last laugh.

By then, he was in his third year working in radio as a reporter for XTRA Sports 690-AM covering the San Diego Padres, as well as the San Diego Chargers.

“I reminded my friends of what I said to them 10 years earlier,” Martinez told Times of San Diego. “I had made it to the big leagues, just not as a player.”

Now, a familiar local voice in local radio for more than 33 years, Martinez has quit.

The 55-year-old recently walked away after nearly 10 years at the iHeart San Diego cluster of stations. Since 2012, he has worn multiple hats in the iHeart building, including delivering sports updates on XTRA Sports 1360-AM, KOGO News Radio 600-AM, KGB 101.5-FM and KIOZ Rock 105.3-FM. He also hosted pre-game shows for San Diego Charger game-day broadcasts.

Now, he’s planning to focus on his graphic design business and watercolor portraits for select customers and his family.

“I got married later in life and we have two kids, a daughter age 11 and son age 8,” said Martinez, a resident of Poway. “A typical work schedule in radio can be any day, anytime. Over the past couple of years, I was missing too many family activities. I don’t have extra time in life to make-up for missed Little League and soccer games.

“My wife (Christine, who works for a financial advisor) gave me her blessing. She understands, her father worked in radio as a sales manager. She agreed that it was time for me to move on.

“Since leaving iHeart, a lot of terrific people have reached out to me with encouraging words, plus several possible opportunities, including a podcast and other jobs outside of broadcasting. It’s been overwhelming. But, I believe my radio career is over.”

When Martinez left his radio job in late May, iHeart posted a tribute on Twitter and asked fans to give him a proper send off. He also has received well wishes from retired Major League Baseball players, including Trevor Hoffman.

Growing up in Pasadena, a young Ernie was attracted to sports. “During the summer, my mom wanted to cultivate some creativity in us and keep us busy. So, she assigned my sister and me to produce our own newspapers. I created my own sports magazine. I wrote the stories and drew the pictures, which helped to develop my graphic design skills.”

Martinez has not always worked at a job where he primarily used his voice.

While in high school, he worked at a local Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. At times, he climbed inside the Chuckie mouse mascot costume to silently make the rounds high-fiving patrons.

“One of my goals playing the mouse was to avoid getting kicked in sensitive places that would buckle any mouse,” recalled Martinez. “One time, this kid attempted to kick me and I grabbed his foot. In my best Dirty Harry deep voice, I said, ‘I dare you to do it again.’ The little monster was shocked to hear a voice from behind those mesh eyes. He said, ‘Hey, Chuckie, you’re not supposed to talk.’

“I replied, ‘You try kicking me again and talking will be the least of your worries.’”

Martinez started in radio on Cinco de Mayo in 1988 at Palomar College’s student-operated station on campus.

His first shift at a commercial radio station was on Christmas Day 1988 at 1450-AM, which played country and western music. The studios were located at the Vineyard Mall retail center in Escondido. Later the station switched to an oldies format, including Frank Sinatra songs, with the tagline, “the station of the stars.”

On April 1, 1991, he received a job offer at XTRA Sports.

“Major life events in radio have happened for me on holidays, from May 5th to December 25th and April Fool’s Day,” Martinez said. “Looking back, my radio career was tremendous. I had exceptional opportunities to work with very talented people. Now, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Right now, my family is the major priority.”

KSWB Fox 5 to Broadcast ‘Big Bay Boom’ Live on July 4

KSWB-TV Fox 5 San Diego, owned by Nexstar Media Group, will air a 90-minute special on Sunday evening, July 4, featuring live coverage of San Diego’s popular “Big Bay Boom” fireworks display sponsored by the Port of San Diego.

The broadcast will begin at 8 p.m. with the 20-minute fireworks extravaganza scheduled to start at 9 p.m.

Four additional Nexstar affiliates will offer a one-hour simulcast, including KTLA in Los Angeles, KSEE in Fresno, KGET in Bakersfield and KTXL in Sacramento.

“Fox 5 San Diego is proud to partner with the Port of San Diego for an 11th year televising the Big Bay Boom 4th of July fireworks celebration and helping raise money for the Armed Services YMCA,” said Scott Heath, Fox 5 VP and GM. “Ratings for the Big Bay Boom continue to grow, and we are thankful to our loyal viewers for choosing Fox 5 for their news and special event coverage. We are truly honored to showcase America’s Finest City to viewers across the state of California.”

Last year, the pyrotechnics show was cancelled because of state restrictions against large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Fox 5 aired a one-hour, pre-recorded special featuring highlights of previous fireworks displays held on San Diego Bay.

A statement from KSWB said its live fireworks show in 2019 was the most watched locally produced Fourth of July telecast in the country with a Nielsen rating of 6.3 (the number refers to the estimated percentage of TV households tuned to a viewing source during a quarter hour). A spreadsheet provided by KSWB to Times of San Diego showed 2019 Nielsen numbers for fireworks telecasts in other markets, including Portland (4.9), Seattle-Tacoma (4.7), Houston (4.7), Daytona Beach (3.7), Baltimore (2.3), Raleigh-Durham (2.2) and Los Angeles (1.2).

The annual fireworks event is a boon for the local economy. A 2018 economic impact study conducted by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute found the Big Bay Boom generated $10.1 million in incremental sales for local area hotels, restaurants, retail shops, tour operators, museums, charter cruise firms, boat rental companies and other businesses.

This year’s Big Bay Boom, now in its 20th year, will be visible over most of the northern and central parts of San Diego, with viewing locations at Broadway Pier, Caesar E. Chavez Park, Coronado Ferry Landing, Coronado Tidelands Park, Embarcadero Parks North and South, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, Shelter Island and Spanish Landing. Fireworks will be launched from four barge locations off the shorelines of Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, Shelter Island and South Embarcadero.

About 500,000 people are expected to come to the waterfront, making it one of the largest July 4 fireworks shows in America. A musical simulcast, airing on radio station KGB 101.5-FM, will accompany the sky show. More event information and donation opportunities to the Armed Services YMCA are available at www.bigbayboom.com.

Riding on the Pacific Surfliner during the pandemic. Courtesy of Amtrak

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Wins AdWheel Marketing Awards

The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, a 351-mile coastal passenger train that runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, was recently recognized with two first-place AdWheel awards by the American Public Transportation Association. The awards were for a COVID-19-related marketing and communications campaign in categories for electronic media and social media.

According to the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency, managing entity for the Pacific Surfliner, the COVID-19 communications campaigns included digital elements such as website updates, informational articles and virtual experiences on social media.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff worked tirelessly to execute crisis communications and quickly distribute up-to-date information on service impacts,” said Donna DeMartino, managing director, of the rail agency. “As the Pacific Surfliner continued to provide a core-level of service for essential travel, it was critical to communicate ongoing efforts to operate train service in a safe manner for crews and passengers. It is an honor to receive the industry’s recognition in support of our marketing programs that kept the public informed and connected during the pandemic.”

Awards will be presented at the ATPA 2021 Marketing and Communications Workshop in October in Philadelphia. The association is an international trade group whose members are involved in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services and high-speed passenger rail.

The Pacific Surfliner is the nation’s busiest, state-supported, intercity passenger rail route with 26 daily trains serving 27 stations and annual ridership of nearly 3 million.

Health Care Communicators to Discuss Effective Presentations

The Health Care Communicators of Southern California, a networking group, will host “Creating Presentations That Persuade Audiences and Generate Results,” a virtual mixer from noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 30, over Zoom. Registration is available at www.hccsc.org.

The speaker will be Diane West, founder and president, 2Connect of San Diego. Topics will include what works and doesn’t in business presentations, how to tell an engaging and compelling story, ways to identify and cut fluff and special considerations for virtual presentations. Attendees will learn methods for delivering a compelling story to any audience, specific strategies on using brevity to increase listener value and guidelines on maximizing a virtual presence.

The networking group’s members include communications professionals who work in the health care, wellness, biotech, medical device, health information technology and pharmaceutical industries in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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